Aspiring Surgeon Erin Pazaski Blends Art, Science

March 12, 2015
SPOKANE, Wash. – Gonzaga University senior Erin Pazaski’s life represents an ideal balance of the arts and sciences. As a scientist, this aspiring orthopedic surgeon studies biology and works as a research assistant at Washington State University’s Sleep and Performance Research Center across the Spokane River from Gonzaga. As an artist, she picks up her trumpet to root and toot the Zags to victory as a member of the Bulldog Band.

The all-volunteer Bulldog Band includes mostly non-music majors who love music and enjoy performing. A transfer from Pepperdine University as a freshman, Pazaski says she found her place as a Zag somewhere between science and music.

Winner of the 2014 Gonzaga Symphony Orchestra Young Artists’ Concerto and Aria Competition, Pazaski performed with the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra (2006-2011), was a Washington State Solo and Ensemble finalist (2008-2011), and a National Trumpet Competition semi-finalist (2007, 2009, 2010). In addition to performing with the Bulldog Band since 2012, she has performed in Gonzaga’s Jazz Ensemble, Jazz Combo, the Symphony Orchestra, and the Wind Symphony.

Pazaski has played piano since kindergarten, trumpet since sixth grade, and picked up almost every other brass instrument in between. While music was the focus of her life before college, Pazaski has always aspired to become a physician.

“My life revolved around music,” she says. “I never really thought I wanted to go into it as a profession. It’s more something I do because I enjoy it and I enjoy the people and it’s a nice break from science. I love both.”

David Fague, director of jazz studies and the Bulldog Band, said Pazaski has been special – both as a musician and person.

“She has been fantastic,” Fague said. “She is exactly the kind of person we’re always looking to get in the Bulldog Band. Many students in the band are science or math majors but love playing their instruments and continuing as musicians. I’m blessed to be able to get to work with some of the best and most talented students on campus.”

Pazaski joined the Bulldog Band as a freshman and this marks her fourth consecutive trip to the West Coast Conference and NCAA tournaments. As a junior, she learned to conduct the band at basketball games. She traveled to Texas with the women’s basketball team to the NCAA tournament last year and conducted there.

“You have to learn quickly because there’s a big margin of error,” she says. “For example if you play during the game the team can get a technical.”

This year, she will play with the band at the men’s NCAA Tournament; Fague will serve as conductor.

Conducting has helped sharpen many of Pazaski’s skills beyond music. It’s helped her learn to work with many different types of people in stressful situations – good preparation for any career. While many students aren’t able to handle the time commitment of band for four years, Pazaski said she has thrived managing her art and science.

While the Bulldog Band has contributed to a harmonious student experience, Pazaski said her favorite part of being a Gonzaga student has been the people she has met.

“I’ve appreciated being at a small school where we can make good connections with not just the students but our teachers,” she said.

Senior Night in the Kennel was an emotional time for Pazaski. Her parents traveled from Sammamish, Washington, to be on hand as she conducted for the last time in the McCarthey Athletic Center. Still, she knows the best is yet to come. After graduation in May, Pazaski plans to spend a year applying to medical school while continuing her research at the WSU Sleep Lab.

“I’ve been thankful for that experience with the Bulldog Band, but also for the community of Gonzaga,” says Pazaski. “It feels nice to be part of this community.”