Student Musician Becomes Music Teacher

Sarah Shasberger ’12 is making a name for herself. As the oldest daughter of Michael Shasberger, Adams professor of music and worship at Westmont, Sarah says she wanted to go away to college to shape her own identity. “But I didn’t find Westmont anywhere else,” she says. “The community is so unique here.”

While still in high school, Sarah discovered a passion for teaching children and teenagers to play the violin and viola, and her list of music students continues to grow.

“I’ve received a lot of affirmation from parents and teachers and got certified as a Suzuki teacher,” she says. “Right now I teach 17 kids in the community ages 4 to 14 — and it’s all been through word of mouth and emailing.”

Sarah, a music major, plays the viola in the Westmont Orchestra and for the Siloam Quartet, a group of student-musicians formed three years ago that’s been playing nationwide at Bright Hope for Tomorrow campaign events.

She’s interested in studying viola performance in graduate school, and she is looking into programs. “I don’t want to teach and not perform,” she says. “I want to focus my studies on viola performance in graduate school and use that knowledge to be a better teacher.”

In January, Sarah packed her viola for Westmont’s Mediterranean Semester. The program has two parts: one in France with excursions to Italy and Spain, and the other in the Middle East and Israel/Palestine with trips to Jordan and Syria. She has performed in numerous churches in France, the desert of Wadi Rum and on the streets of Venice. “I’ve enjoyed my religious studies coursework, and I had a strong desire to go to the Holy Land, the place where Jesus walked,” she says. Her host mother in Montpelier also plays the viola.

Sarah was graduating from eighth grade in Denver when her family decided to move to Santa Barbara five years ago so her father could teach at Westmont.

“It made sense, and I was very much at peace with the decision,” Sarah says. “There were some struggles, but it was the right move for our family, and it brought me closer to my parents.”

Having a father with impressive musical talents meant Sarah and her sister, Rebecca, had to play an instrument. “We did get to pick which one,” says Sarah, who studies both the viola and the violin. “There were times I didn’t want to practice, but my parents never let me quit. They always encouraged me. The running joke was to sell the violin if I did not practice.”

Sarah learned to balance academics, work, music and athletics at an early age. “By fifth grade, I had to set priorities for music, school and sleep,” she says. “It prepared me well for college.”

At Providence High School, Sarah ran with the varsity cross country team, winning the Fairbanks Invitational and receiving the Tim Brown Award for Godly Character in Sports. Her first year at Westmont, she joined the cross country team. Last August she surprised even herself by nearly winning the inaugural Westmonster 5K, finishing two seconds behind the women’s champion.

“I wanted to come to college, try a variety of things and explore a different route,” she says. “I considered majoring in liberal studies or history and have been taking different classes, but I always come back to music. It’s where I feel I belong, and it’s what I love doing.”

Sarah has been able to carve out her own identity on campus apart from her father’s legacy. “Most of my professors know my dad, but they have been interested in getting to know me and how I’m different,” she says. “I’m not known as just my father’s daughter. People know me for me.

“This last year, I’ve had conversations with my parents about where my career is going and what I want to do, and they are supporting me. I see their joy in seeing my joy. I feel good being pushed, and it has been a blessing rather than a hindrance.”

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