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The Dartmouth
June 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Student Spotlight: Erica Westenberg '15

Erica Westenberg ’15, a violinist, is most passionate about chamber music.
Erica Westenberg ’15, a violinist, is most passionate about chamber music.

Erica Westenberg ’15 is a familiar face at the Hopkins Center. A fourth-year violinist in the Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra and Dartmouth Chamber Music Program as well as a trip manager for DSO’s December trip to Eastern Europe, the group’s first since 2008, Westenberg has been involved in the arts throughout her college career.

In high school, Westenberg took private lessons with a chamber musician, and she has been passionate about playing this type of music since. Chamber music is composed for small groups of instruments, and the arrangements are typically tailored to specific players.

“You get to play with an intimate group and really live the music with other people and get a good understanding of the piece,” Westenberg said.

Though a string instrument player, Westenberg has branched far outside the string quartet, playing with a clarinet trio, horn trio, piano quintet and string trio while at Dartmouth. Each group presented unique challenges and opportunities, she said, like balancing the sound between instruments.

She said this adjustment proved most difficult with the horn trio.

“I had to come up a lot and the horns had to be quieter without compromising tone,” Westenberg said. “The adjustments and working together are the most fun part for me. That’s probably why chamber music is my favorite.”

Music has presented Westenberg with a number of opportunities, from playing in The Dartmouth Vibes, a short-lived pop string group that performed songs by Adele and Michael Jackson, to playing at three weddings sophomore summer. Westenberg said she has enjoyed meeting new people through music, especially other musicians.

“It’s a really interesting journey, you don’t really get to mingle like that anywhere else,” Westenberg said.

Westenberg also served on a Hopkins Center task force her sophomore year that worked to boost attendance at concerts on campus.

This year, she has played a critical role organizing the DSO’s 10-day trip to Eastern Europe in December. The group will perform Brahms, Beethoven and Mozart in Serbia, Hungary and Bosnia.

After a year of planning, Westenberg said she is excited to bring music to the region.

“Given the recent turmoil in that area, it’s a place that’s really looking for classical music,” Westenberg said.

Music professor and director of Dartmouth’s performance lab in chamber music Alex Ogle described Westenberg as extremely skilled, with “strong musicianship and considerable skills as an instrumentalist.”

“She has tremendous experience and technical skills, and this is coupled with a personal sense of responsibility not only to the music but to the people she’s playing with,” Ogle said. “[She has] wonderful people skills that she brings to every chamber music encounter.”

Alice Wang ’16, a fellow DSO violinist, called Westenberg a talented musician and close friend. She said she is already dreading the group’s spring concert, which will send off members of the Class of 2015 like Westenberg.

Though she spends countless hours in rehearsals, individual practice sessions and concerts each term, Westenberg is a neuroscience major and German studies minor who plans to pursue a career in medicine. After graduation, she hopes to conduct research at a German neuroscience laboratory for a year, then attend medical school.

She hopes to continue playing the violin in a medical school chamber group, she said.

In the future, Westenberg said she would like to play more pieces by Bartok, Beethoven and Shostakovich. She said Mendelssohn’s piano trio is one of her favorite chamber pieces.

Westenberg said she most admires musicians who use music to reach audiences on a deeply personal and emotional level. She cited Russian cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich, who performed as the Berlin Wall was being torn down, as a role model.

“He was very humanitarian with his music and an incredible cellist with a technique that is distinctly Russian,” she said. “Music is able to reach so many people. It has a deep connection with people, and people respond to it in a lot of emotional ways. It’s very human.”

The Final Wordwith Erica Westenberg ’15

My Late Night Collis order: S’mores ice cream.

Favorite TV show: “Bones.”

My favorite World Cup memory: I was in San Diego doing research at the USCD Morris Cancer Center. I was in this British pub with my cousins, and everybody went crazy during the final game.