Dr. Ruth Lin and the beauty of finding purpose in your profession

Alex Wagner , Guest Writer

Dr. Michael Shasberger’s 17 years at Westmont, bringing about substantial change in the music department, another accomplished musician has found her way to become Westmont’s newest music department chair and director of orchestral activities. 

Coming from 12 years at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota, Dr. Ruth Lin offers an exciting opportunity for Westmont’s music department to flourish under the instruction of an award-winning teacher and performer who has collaborated with orchestras and conductors from around the world.

However, Dr. Lin did not always have teaching in mind. Towards the end of her graduate studies, she was accepted to a program called After with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington D.C., where her goal was to train the next generation of American symphony conductors. While part of the program involved working with the orchestra and performing with them in concert, Lin estimates two-thirds of the job was spent trying to understand the structure of American symphony orchestras and what one’s role as a music director consists of.

Lin recounts the struggles of standing out in the music world saying, “I would have to capitalize on who I am as a person or that I was a specialist in a particular composer, and all the major [composers] are taken. Everybody has done Beethoven, everybody has done Brahms, everybody has done Mahler. To stand out, you have to find some obscure composer. I was 27 at the time and hadn’t conducted [all of these major works], so in my head I thought ‘I’m not ready to specialize; I don’t even know what’s out there.’” 

Lin’s mentor pointed her towards the idea of teaching, highlighting how nobody would tell her what to program or what music she ought to perform. Lin believes that teaching music is special because, “You get a lot of students who may not necessarily become performers, but they are just people who love music. I think that’s great! The world does not need more performers because there are plenty out there; I think the world needs more patrons of art and people who understand it and appreciate it.”

Aside from the enticing Santa Barbara climate for a Minnesotan like Dr. Lin, she explains her deeper reasoning for choosing to instruct at Westmont. Lin describes her love for the Westmont culture when she states, “Westmont is much more overt in the way it thinks about faith and in the way that they articulate how faith plays a role in a young person’s life.”

Though Lin feels Westmont is clearly where she is meant to be right now, she gives advice to students who still feel they have not found their way. “If you do your best at what is in front of you right now, things will become clearer. If God puts you in a class—even if it wasn’t your first choice—do your best with it, and you will come out with something beautiful.” 


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