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NASA's celestial symphonist studied under Neil Armstrong, now plays in Columbus

'When I’ve done my technical work, it has demanded as much creativity out of me as any art'
Posted at 7:39 PM, Feb 21, 2024

COLUMBUS — Steve Noneman, a former aerospace engineer for NASA, has been an instrumentalist for the majority of his life.

“I was in the concert band and the orchestra, and the pit orchestra for the stage musicals, and all that … after my freshman year (of college), I dropped my horn and focused on my studies," said Noneman.

In college, he was a member of the Aerospace Engineering Class of 1978 of the University of Cincinnati where he studied under professor Neil Armstrong, best known for being the first person to walk on the moon.

In Columbus, he has returned to playing his trombone as a member of both the Billings Community Band and the Hangar Band, a group of music and flight enthusiasts.

“He was digging through his stuff and I heard this, ‘Errr,’ come out from, like, upstairs ... and there he is with his trombone, and I was like ‘where’d you get that?’” said Candace Noneman, Steve's wife of 30 years.

Steve said as soon as he prioritized his work over his passion for music, he began to reap the benefits, but missed playing amid his career hiatus.

“I got into NASA during my sophomore year (of college) … There’s a fella … he basically asked me to invent the spreadsheet program back in the days before it existed," said Steve, "So, (NASA) gave me challenging work."

Candace said Steve is extremely intelligent, and she believes his intellect can make it difficult for him to relate to most people. Despite this, she said the most important thing to her is that her husband is happy.

“What’s really important is he loved what he was doing … Many people can just retire and let it go, not Steve … He still loves, uh, loves the mission," said Candace.

The two said Steve continues his work with NASA well into his retirement because of his passion for aeronautics, which he also fulfills with regular flights in the plane he constructed.

“Bravery is reflected, in my opinion, in that willingness to say, ‘I think I’ve got this to where I can do it, and I’m gonna try.," said Steve.

He noted that there exists no line between the creativity used in his musical expression and that used in his technical works.

“When I’ve done my technical work, it has demanded as much creativity out of me as any art," said Steve.