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NUWC Division Newport engineer achieves work-life balance by beating on the drums

By NUWC Division Newport Public Affairs | July 11, 2019


Give him a drum, timpani, marimba, glockenspiel or any musical instrument “you can beat on instead of blowing on” and Michael Grant, head of the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division Newport’s Unmanned Undersea Vehicles Division, will show you an easy way to relieve work-related stress.

“It’s hard to worry about other things when you’re playing music because it takes so much concentration,” Grant said about being a percussionist.  “I can walk out the door at the end of the work day, feeling tired and aggravated, and then I can completely disengage from work by playing drums. I always feel better after I play.” 

In fact, lots of scientists and engineers play a musical instrument, Grant said.

“It’s very technical, very creative, much like the work done at Division Newport,” Grant said. “When you start playing music with the same people from work that you were arguing with earlier, all issues go away.”

Grant, a resident of Newport, Rhode Island, became a percussionist in middle school and has stuck with playing drums throughout his many careers. He performed in the Navy Band while in Officer Candidate School and with Auburn University’s Marching Band, a group that included “350 of my closest friends.” In the past 10 years, he has played with the Warwick Symphony, Newport concert and jazz bands, The Kentish Guard in East Greenwich, and a jazz band in Warwick. As a member of the Newport Concert Band, he performed during a Festival of Trees event held at NUWC Newport.

“The very first time I ever set foot on NUWC was to play music,” Grant said.

He now performs with the Lafayette Band of North Kingstown during free summer concerts held on Wednesday evenings at the Wickford Town Beach Bandstand. In May, the band performed live on Facebook for WJAR Channel 10, as a prelude to the 12th annual Tribute to the U.S. Military, a concert held in North Kingstown.

“This event was a little more formal than usual,” Grant said. “It included a veterans group from Rolling Thunder, Glenn Miller tunes, the ‘Hymn for the Fallen,’ and a military honor guard.”

While attending Salve Regina University, Grant had the opportunity to play in the university’s production of ‘Kiss Me Kate.’ He has also played at various parades, festivals, and other events in Newport and other places throughout New England and performed once in the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Galway, Ireland.

“If you get a reputation as someone who can play well and can show up on time, you can always find gigs through other musicians,” Grant said.

Having devoted his professional career to the Navy, Grant has never been a full-time musician, although he has had the opportunity to perform at nearly every location he has been. And, although Grant knows about work-related stress, he also loves his work at NUWC Newport.

Grant began his NUWC career in 2002, after a 20-year career in the Navy, starting as an enlisted machinist mate and retiring as a naval officer for Surface Warfare and Nuclear Propulsion Engineering. Since joining NUWC Newport, he has held various positions, including engineer for Heavyweight Torpedo In-Service Engineering Agent from 2002-03, resource officer at Chief of Naval Operations Surface Warfare Directorate from 2003-05 and program officer at the Washington Navy Yard’s PMS 415 in 2006. He served as branch head of the Undersea Defense Devices Branch from 2005-08 and head of the Undersea Defense Division from 2008-13. He now heads the Unmanned Undersea Vehicles Division in the Undersea Warfare Weapons, Vehicles and Defensive Systems Department.

“I feel very fortunate I was able to serve in the military for more than 20 years, and feel equally fortunate that I was able continue my career as a civilian, serving some of the same customers I worked side by side with while wearing a uniform,” Grant said.

NUWC Newport is a shore command of the U.S. Navy within the Naval Sea Systems Command, which engineers, builds and supports America’s fleet of ships and combat systems. NUWC Newport provides research, development, test and evaluation, engineering and fleet support for submarines, autonomous underwater systems, undersea offensive and defensive weapons systems, and countermeasures associated with undersea warfare. 

Currently celebrating its 150th anniversary, NUWC Newport is the oldest warfare center in the country, tracing its heritage to the Naval Torpedo Station that was established on Goat Island in Newport Harbor in 1869.  Commanded by Captain Michael Coughlin, NUWC Newport maintains major detachments in West Palm Beach, Florida, and Andros Island in the Bahamas, as well as test facilities at Seneca Lake and Fisher's Island, New York, Leesburg, Florida, and Dodge Pond, Connecticut.