Katherine Wee ’19

Violinist, Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra

How long have you been playing violin?
Since third grade. I started off with piano, but there was this girl at my church who played violin, and I started begging my parents. For my birthday, they finally gave in and got me a cheap violin.

How was the orchestra’s winter trip to Italy?
I was nervous because I don’t speak Italian, but we had a lot of fun. We collaborated with conservatory students and held four performances in Florence. It was a pretty hectic schedule. It was really interesting to meet the mother of [conductor] Filippo Ciabatti, who is Italian. It’s also crazy to run into Dartmouth alumni. There are a lot of them all over the world.

On the tour you served as concert mistress, tuning and helping to lead the orchestra. How difficult is the job?
It’s an important position, stressful but worth it. There are also a lot of solos to play. Everyone’s following you, so you have to make sure you’re on top of it.

Can you describe your feelings when you’re playing a piece you love?
I’m completely immersed in the music and do my best to create a storyline that aligns with the character of the composition. When you finish playing a piece, there’s that moment that takes your breath away as you cling onto the last notes. It’s a great way to de-stress.

How do people react when they learn you are a violinist?
Many think that I must listen to only classical music. I do listen to a lot of [Itzhak] Perlman and [Nathan] Milstein, but I definitely like pop music, gospel, R&B. I like songs with clean lyrics. I don’t think many of our musicians listen to only classical music. We all come from different pockets of the campus, but we’re all connected by music. 

Do you have to treat your instrument with special care?
Yes, especially in the winter. String instruments are very sensitive to temperature and humidity. You don’t want your bow to snap, so you have to keep everything clean and in pristine condition.

What are your plans after graduation?
Two gap years, and then I want to go to medical school.

Photograph by John Sherman

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