Student Spotlight: Nathan Lehrer '14

by Michaela Ledoux | 5/6/14 3:50pm

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Growing up in New York City, Nathan Lehrer ’14 remembers having a passion for music since an early age. As a child, hearing music made him break out in dance and boogie around his house to his favorite tunes.

Noticing his interest, his parents enrolled him in an elementary school where music instruction made up one-third of the curriculum. Lehrer took up the piano in kindergarten and worked with the same instructor through high school, he said.

“My teacher was really tough, but I think that was good,” Lehrer said. “She gave me the gift to be able to play the piano and I’m really grateful for that.”

Though an engineering major, Lehrer has played classical piano all four years at Dartmouth, taking lessons with music professor Gregory Hayes and traveling to London with the music department’s foreign study program during his sophomore spring. He will play a senior piano recital on May 17.

Lehrer described the patterns and logical structure to classical music as similar to thinking for engineering, but to him, music serves as an important expressive outlet. Lehrer plans to complete the Bachelors of Engineering this spring, finishing the program in four years as opposed to the common five-year sequence.

“I have really enjoyed being able to get into my piano since I’ve come to Dartmouth, more so than I ever have before,” Lehrer said. “I have a lot more self-direction on what I spend my time doing, so I block out a little extra time to do piano.”

One of Lehrer’s favorite engineering class projects was to design a digital radio, which allowed him to incorporate the science of sounds and engineering. The project sparked his interest in possibly pursuing a career in sound engineering.

“I found it really cool because it involved sound and frequencies, which music is all about,” he said.

Lehrer also plays on Dartmouth’s ultimate frisbee team, which recently qualified for the national ultimate championships this weekend in Ohio.

Hayes described Lehrer as “quietly industrious,” with a good attitude toward hard work and practice. He called Lehrer curious, constantly thinking beyond the printed notes on a page.

“One of his strengths is that he learns music carefully,” Hayes said. “He is very careful with his initial encounter with a piece of music. He is more aware than other students of the nuances and the composer’s specific directions.”

Lehrer said the music FSP was a highlight of his time at Dartmouth. As a solo musician who had not taken many music classes, the opportunity integrated him into a community of musicians that he had previously lacked, he said.

Lehrer said he also enjoyed group trips to performances, which were built into the program.

Liliana Ma ’14, a violin and piano player who participated in the FSP with Lehrer, said she has been impressed with Lehrer’s ability to balance music and engineering and excel in both. Ma, an engineering and music double major, called this balance challenging but rewarding.

Receiving Hayes’s instruction has helped him study music more seriously, Lehrer said. He has been working on the material for his hour-long senior show since the fall, and the repertoire will reflect his passion for classical music.

“Sometimes you think, did I really get to know this piece as I should have or could I have gone deeper?” Lehrer said. “We have been able to dig really deep into the music. We have been able to get into all of the nuances of the pieces.”

Lehrer said he likes to play music by composers who were also pianists. These composers are often innovative when writing for the instrument and produce material that is fun to play.

He will be performing pieces by Schumann and Debussy for his senior show.

Though he does not plan to pursue a career as a professional musician, Lehrer hopes to keep music a part of his life after graduation.

“[Music is] not a career goal, but it enriches my life, and I like doing it for fun,” he said.

THE FINAL WORDIf I could visit one country: I would go back to London or Ireland for a more natural setting.

The first music I purchased on my own: I remember downloading a bunch of Beatles songs and being blown away by them.