Student Spotlight: Katie Wee '19 explores music and health

by Madison Wilson | 1/11/19 2:05am

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Source: Photo courtesy of Katie Wee

Katie Wee ’19 is about as liberal arts as it gets: as a music major as well as a premed student, Wee’s experience at Dartmouth has crossed over disciplinary lines.

Wee is a music major and plays violin in the Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra, serving as Concert Mistress on and off for the last two years. She is also on the premed track, a fellow with the Eric Eichler ’57 Fellowship for Health Care Leaders, active in Christian Union, on the club tennis team and a senior academic mentor in the Undergraduate Dean’s Office. Clearly, Wee is not a one-dimensional student.

Wee says she chose to attend Dartmouth because she valued the institution’s emphasis on academics and interdisciplinary learning, which would allow her to keep her options open regarding her career rather than attending a more traditional musical conservatory school.

“The [music] department itself is really small, and you get the chance to build one-on-one connections with a lot of professors even though you’ve never taken a class with them,” Wee said. “[The department is] so easily accessible, and I think it really helped me find what I want to do with music.”

Wee’s music major is an interdisciplinary program that moves beyond just playing classical Western music: it includes studying music theory, taking violin lessons and learning non-Western musical styles. Her time studying music at Dartmouth has also introduced her to an unfamiliar branch of musical study, the study of ethnomusicology, which blends social justice, culture and music. Through studying ethnomusicology, she experienced firsthand how music is influenced by popular culture and has the power to change society, Wee said.

Wee added that while she is not pursuing music professionally, she has been able to blend her passions in health and music through her honors thesis, which explores the influence of health on musicians. According to Wee, her paper discusses how physical and mental health ailments affected musicians and their work across history. Furthermore, Wee said that she will also be performing her senior recital on April 20, which will include pieces written by composers who suffered from health issues.

“I’ll be digging behind the composer’s history of health, whether it’s mental or physical ailments, that really proved to be an obstacle to their musical careers ­— whether it was in the beginning or if it digressed later in their life,” Wee said. “So I’ll be doing that research and seeing how [their health] reflects in their music.”

Close friend and fellow premed student and music major Rebecca Philip ’19 commented on Wee’s broad interests and dedication to her passions. According to Philip, the two met during their first year and have been friends ever since, developing music for the Christian Union Worship Team and rooming together on the music Foreign Study Program. Philip added that since they have so much in common, their friendship has allowed them to support each other during their time at Dartmouth. She also mentioned that she appreciates Wee’s open and caring nature and her unique perspective in approaching music.

“I love discussing music with her because she always has a very unique take, based on her extensive experience with music,” Philip said. She added that their conversation topics range from contemporary to classical music, though Wee prefers classical music.

“She just understands the feelings that come along with music and it’s really great to talk to her about that.” Philip said.

One of the ways Wee explores her passion for classical music is through her involvement with the DSO. Playing in the DSO has been a pivotal experience in her Dartmouth career, Wee said. According to Wee, performing in the orchestra is a large time commitment, at least five hours per week, but the experience is still very rewarding.

Wee added that this past winter, the DSO had the opportunity to tour in Italy, partnering with conservatory students in Tuscany to perform four concerts across the country, including Florence, DSO conductor Filippo Ciabatti’s hometown. According to Ciabatti, Wee served as Concert Mistress for the tour and really enjoyed the experience, even with the added leadership responsibility. Ciabatti and Wee have worked together for a long time, even performing a duet for students together, Ciabatti said.

Ciabatti said that Wee is a great addition to the orchestra.

“She’s just a really competent, wonderful musician and also a wonderful person,” Ciabatti said.