Spartan Showcase: Bethany Westphal

Photo of Bethany Westphal
Bethany Westphal

As a child, Bethany Westphal recalls listening to the music of Bruce Springsteen’s The E Street Band with her mom and falling in love with one aspect in particular: the soulful sounds of Clarence Clemons’ saxophone. Today, she’s a saxophonist herself—and she’s putting her talents to work as a second-year student in the Master of Music Education program.

“I knew I had to play saxophone,” she said. When her older sister began playing the instrument before her, Westphal became even more determined. And her determination has paid off.

“I pursued a degree in music education because I just love it,” she explained. “I have a difficult time imagining myself doing anything else.”

Recently, her passion took her to Italy for the Chieti Classica Saxophone Festival, where she worked alongside notable musicians, including Federico Mondelci, Jérôme Laran and Hayrapet Arakelyan. The experience was supported by the Eva L. Pancoast Fellowship from the College of Arts and Sciences and the Gertrude Seiberling scholarship from the Tuesday Musical Association.

 “It was an incredible experience,” Westphal recounted of her first trip abroad. “I played amongst other young saxophonists around the world.” 

Read more about Westphal’s experience as a saxophonist and in Italy.

1. What drew you to CWRU? 

I knew of the outstanding music and research program. Having the opportunity to teach as a teaching assistant (a hands-on experience) while working on my degree stood out to me. My grandfather also attended CWRU and spoke highly of it. 

2. What do you hope to do with it once you have completed your degree? 

I hope to become a middle/high school band director and eventually work on my PhD in music education to become a professor.

3. Why did you want to travel abroad to Italy? 

I wanted to study at this specific program for the saxophone professors that I worked with. It was a plus being in Italy and connecting with my Italian roots.

4. What was the best part of your trip abroad? Were there any standout moments? 

The best part of my trip abroad was spending time with the other saxophonists in my program. A lot of them were from the same university in the same saxophone studio and they welcomed me as one of their own. I was the only one from America in the program. 

5. How do you think it will help you with your future plans? 

I think this enriching experience will not only help me as a musician, but as a music educator. Being able to speak of the culture and music first hand might be helpful in the classroom. 

6. What do you love most about saxophone?

What I love most about playing saxophone is being able to play in many different styles and genres of music. I grew up studying both classical and jazz saxophone and most recently I’ve been performing in a rhythm and blues band.

7. What about a career in music appealed most to you? 

I grew up in a musical family, it seemed like music was always being played in one way or another in my house. I have two aunts that were music teachers and I was always encouraged to pursue musical goals. I’ve always loved music, so a career in it made sense.

8. Can you describe your path in music, including any particularly big moments? 

I actually did not have a straightforward path in music like many do. I ended up taking some time off from music in my undergrad, but coming back to it has made me stronger and made me enjoy and really appreciate it more.