Léonie Sonning Talent Prize 2018
The broad-shouldered prisoners were my best audience ever
Kern Westerberg lives with three other musicians in an apartment at Jakob Gade student residence in Copenhagen. The residence has a rehearsal room to use if you need a little more space, but as all residents are musicians, nobody complains about noise from the rehearsal room.
Kern is used to sharing a home with many musicians as they were four violinists in his childhood home. Kern and his three siblings have all played from a very young age – led by his older sister Neel, who is a music teacher today. Little sister Kirse is studying at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Aarhus and Kern attends the soloist class in Copenhagen. Kern’s twin brother, Birk, stopped his violin studies after his bachelor 18 months ago and is now pursuing a career in the army.
It was older sister Neel who started playing the violin at Steinerskolen when she was a little girl. She continued at the Aarhus Music School and soon after her three siblings followed suit. Kern and his twin brother Birk learned to play the violin according to the Suzuki method at age four at Aarhus Music School.
They were introduced to music at an early age through listening to tapes with the story about Hugo, the Fox and Yvette, the Raccoon on new adventures.
It was an amazing story with small pieces of Mozart, Carl Nielsen and the like in-between. The music was played by flute and piano. We listened to it so many times and it is a very dear musical memory to us, says Kern Westerberg.
The two brothers participated at age 9 in Berlingske’s Music Competition and played in this connection a final concert at the Tivoli Concert Hall. The year after, Kern won a local competition in Aarhus where the prize was about DKK 9,000, which was paid in cash.
I recall driving home in the car with all that money in my hand – an absurd amount to me – and then I thought; okay, it’s a lot of fun after all, says Kern.
He was accompanied by a group of friends through the Suzuki system. Music tied them together, but when they were at courses, they would rather play football than violin. Still, it made Kern think: “Okay, if you want to be with those friends, you need to practise. If you want these experiences, you have to attend classes”.
It became a ‘quid pro quo feeling’. For many years. I gradually became more serious and started to focus on where I wanted to go, says Kern and continues: I have never felt that I had to take a break from music because it has always been there somewhere when I was not in school. I felt that it is meaningful. I have never thought about doing something entirely different like my brother, says Kern.
Often, when Kern participates in music festivals, there is an event in the programme where the musicians go to play in hospitals, kindergartens, prisons or in other places where people do not normally have access to live classical music. Most recently, it was in Spain where Kern played with an octet in a prison.
I expected to be killed within five minutes but after the concert where we were had played Bruch’s Octet, one of the broad-shouldered prisoners who had looked very threatening came up to me and gave me a bunch of paper flowers which he had made himself. He told me that the second movement had brought back memories of his parents’ home and how it was when he was a child. It was a very strong experience and one of the best audiences I’ve ever had.
Kern is dreaming about a future where he can be so privileged that he does not have to play music for money but for the sake of music.
You can always take a job where you may earn a lot of money without being dedicated. I prefer not to do so. I rather want to delve into something and choose the things I feel for. You can play at Carnegie Hall, but if you don’t’ have a feeling for it, never mind, says Kern.
Kern Westerberg in brief
Born in Aarhus 1993. Kern Westerberg started playing the violin at the age of four at Aarhus Music School. In 2012, he moved to Stockholm to study at the prestigious Royal College of Music at Edsberg Castle. Kern is now studying in the soloist class at the Royal Danish Academy of Music.
At age 12, Kern Westerberg performed before the Danish National Symphony Orchestra and the Danish National Chamber Orchestra and has since then played with a variety of orchestras, professional and amateur orchestras. Today, he is very active especially as a chamber musician and plays regularly at chamber music festivals all over Scandinavia. Kern Westerberg plays a G. Grancino 1697, on loan from the Augustinus Foundation.
How Kern will use the scholarship from the Léonie Sonning Music Foundation
Kern will use the scholarship from the Léonie Sonning Music Foundation to buy a new violin bow.