May 24, 2012 in Washington Voices

Musician also makes a splash in swimming

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Josh Cowart will never forget the sound of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” filling the room. The Mt. Spokane counselor said student Aaron Wittrock sat at the piano and played the entire piece from memory at a band concert last spring. “I can’t imagine the amount of practice time that went into the performance,” Cowart said.

Music is in Wittrock’s DNA. His parents are both music educators. “They met at a music camp for teachers,” he said.

Wittrock’s performance of “Rhapsody in Blue” garnered him a first place prize at the Anaheim National Heritage Festival in Anaheim, Calif., last year. This year he won the Outstanding Soloist award at the Seattle Heritage Festival.

Piano isn’t the only instrument he plays. “I’ve been in wind ensemble for Jazz Band,” he said. “I’ve played trumpet, euphonium and baritone.”

But piano is his first love. Wittrock said, “I’m more fluent in my musical language on the piano. It’s a much more expressive instrument for me than the horns.”

He also expresses himself in the water. “I’ve been swimming competitively for eight years,” he said.

Indeed, Cowart said, “On noncompetition days, he’s at the pool practicing before his peers are even out of bed.”

Wittrock is a sprint freestyler. His favorite events are the 50- and 100-meter freestyle races. He said, “Last summer I made a national time in the 50 freestyle.”

The camaraderie and the travel are what he most enjoys about competitive swimming. “I’ve made a lot of great friends on my swim team while traveling across the U.S. for swim meets,” he said. “I think it’s been healthy for me to have that kind of stress relief.”

You might think that between music and swimming, Wittrock would have little time to focus on academics. You’d be wrong. Wittrock is the president of the National Honor Society at Mt. Spokane.

“Aaron rocks a 3.96 cumulative GPA and takes ridiculously hard classes,” Cowart said.

His rigorous class load and his musical ability have paved the way for his acceptance at Seattle Pacific University. Wittrock received a music scholarship to the university. He plans to major in pre-med.

“I’m going to row for them, too,” he said. “SPU doesn’t have a swim team, but a lot of swimmers have gone on to row in college. I think it will be a good thing.”

Looking ahead, Wittrock is already considering how to combine his passion for music with a medical career. His grandmother suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, and Wittrock has often gone to her retirement home to play the piano for her and the other residents.

He’s been amazed at how music affects Alzheimer’s patients. He said, “Music lives deeper and can provide a linkage to their past. I’m going to go into neurology.”

Wittrock said he hopes to blend music therapy with neuroscience to help those afflicted with Alzheimer’s.

Cowart is confident Wittrock can achieve his goals and thrive in his post-high school life. “Ten minutes with him (Wittrock) will leave you with a smile and a sense of hope for America’s future.”


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