Thursday, June 08, 2000

Music will celebrate teen's life

Student died on vacation

By Lew Moores
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NORTH COLLEGE HILL — Mike Westermen was 17 years old, a gifted musician with one more year of high school who had been working on an original musical composition that he hoped to have performed next year at school. Instead, he will be buried todayat Spring Grove Cemetery.

        Mike was killed Monday when he was struck by a vehicle in St. Matthews, S.C.

        Now it is the dream of Mike's band director at North College Hill High School to find the composition, complete it and have it performed next school year.

        “Without any question, he was my best musician in the entire band,” said Kim Trytten, the band director who has known Mike since the sixth grade when he took an interest in music.

        “It's our intention to go into the archives in his house and find the music that he was writing. He was writing an original composition that he hoped the band would perform next year. Maybe we can finish it for him and kind of do a Mike Westermen's Opus.”

        Mike was killed as his family headed to Florida on Monday. The car had run out of gas in South Carolina, and Mike and his brother, Matt, had helped push the car down a hill toward a gas station when Mike was struck by another vehicle.

        Classes at the high school ended Thursday. Teachers at the school were having their last meeting Monday when they learned of the tragedy.

        Pamela Westermen, Mike's mother, called and told Mr. Trytten what happened. Reaction was shock and disbelief.

        “The band room was open all day and we had kids and parents coming in,” Mr. Trytten said. “It was a grieving center, a place where kids can come hang and talk and hug and cry. The kids are asking why, and there are no answers. It's another tragic reminder here of how fragile our lives are.”

        A scholarship fund has been set up at the high school in Mike's name intended to help students who plan on pursuing music in college.

        Mike was one of about 73 members of the high school band. He played several instruments and was in the process of learning more, Mr. Trytten said. He played tuba, Sousaphone, baritone horn and trombone and was learning to play saxophone, clarinet, flute and drums.

        “Mike was always three steps ahead of the game, very goal-driven,” he said.

        Mrs. Westermen said she did not know precisely where Mike's interest in playing music had come from, except he had been interested in singing in choirs, then began playing instruments.

        “All I know is he played all the time,” Mrs. Westermen said. “He was constantly

        practicing and learning new instruments. Most of his CDs are Christian and some swing. He didn't like that heavy stuff. He liked orchestra music.” She paused and laughed quietly. “I enjoyed it even when he was annoying.”

        Mike belonged to a youth group at Groesbeck United Methodist Church.

        Joe Nickel, a member of the church who is also a guidance counselor and athletic director at the high school, said Mike began coming about two years ago to participate in the adult choir and brass ensemble group at the church.

        “He was heavily involved in the church youth group. Mike was a high-energy type person,” Mr. Nickel said. “He was just always going. He was here and there, he was into everything.”

        In addition to the high school band, Mike was a member of several select bands, said Mr. Trytten, chosen from among some of the best young musicians in the area. He also performed with a band at the Ohio State Fair last August and was to perform again with them this August.

        In addition to his mother and brother, Mike leaves his grandparents, Pat McElroy, Ralph and Betty Harrison; and aunts, uncles and cousins. Visitation will be from 11 a.m. to the time of the service at 1 p.m. today at the Groesbeck United Methodist Church, 8871 Colerain Avenue.

        Memorials: Mike Westermen Music Scholarship Fund, c/o North College Hill Trojans Band Boosters, 1620 W. Galbraith Road, 45239.


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