Jan Westrick, founder of Princeton Girlchoir, dies at 85

Jan Westrick, founder of the Princeton Girlchoir and the inspiration for the Westrick Music Academy, passed away peacefully under the care of hospice in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on March 13. She was 85.

Janet Ann Westrick was born in Hamilton, Ohio, on August 18, 1938 to Joseph Jerome Westrick and Anna Belle (Woodrey) Westrick. A life long musician, Jan learned to play the piano at age nine and continued to hone her gift for music throughout her life.

Jan attended Hamilton High School, where she served as the school accompanist. Jan went on to Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, where she sang in the chapel choir and studied music education with a major in piano and a minor in voice.

Upon graduation, she began teaching music in the Whitehall, Ohio school system and working as musical director for a local church.

Jan married Tom Oesterling in 1960. They had their first child, Tom Jr., in 1962. In 1966, upon completion of Tom’s Ph.D., the family moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan, where they had two more children, Jennifer and Daniel. Tom took a job at Johnson and Johnson in 1976 and the family moved to Princeton.

The marriage broke up in 1980 and Jan raised her two youngest children independently. She taught piano lessons out of the home, and played for the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, until the opportunity to teach at Princeton Day School was presented to her in 1983.

Jan joined Princeton Day School as music teacher for the Lower School in 1983. She went on to become the choir director of the Middle School and was also named chair of the music and performing arts department. Jan also worked continuously as a church musician, playing piano and organ to accompany services as well as directing church choirs.

In 1989, when her son Dan was a senior at Princeton High School, Jan attended a performance by the American Boy Choir. She felt that she knew girls who could perform like this and she put an ad in the paper to see if local girls would be interested in joining a group to sing and perform under her choral direction. The response was immediate. Jan selected 27 girls after intensive auditions, and the Princeton Girlchoir was born. The Princeton Girlchoir grew into an organization of several performing and training choirs and they traveled and performed extensively throughout Europe, Canada and the United States. The mission of the Princeton Girlchoir is: “to provide excellence in choral education and performance opportunities, while inspiring confidence, character, and a lifelong love of making music together.”

In 1990, Jan married her love, Fred Schott, who was working as a mental health therapist and clinical director at mental health facilities in Central New Jersey. Jan continued to grow and inspire the Girlchoir until 2009, the twentieth anniversary, when she retired and became artistic director emerita.

In 2017, after the close of the American Boy Choir, the Princeton Girlchoir decided to welcome the boys who had been singing with the American Boy Choir. With the inclusion of the boys, the organization was renamed the Westrick Music Academy, after its founder, Jan Westrick.

In 2014, Jan and Fred moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to live near Dan, Jennifer and granddaughter Evelyn. In Santa Fe, Jan sang with various choral groups and directed choirs at senior-living facilities until the early stages of Alzheimer’s interfered. She was diagnosed in 2018 and began a slow decline until her death on March 13.

Jan is survived by her husband, Fred Schott, of Santa Fe; her brother, Jim Westrick of Cincinnati, OH, and his wife Mary; her son, Tom Oesterling of Boston, MA; her daughter, Jennifer Oesterling of Albuquerque, NM; her son, Daniel Oesterling of Santa Fe, NM; her only granddaughter, Evelyn Oesterling Mobley of Albuquerque, NM; her son-in-law, John Myers of Albuquerque; and step daughters Lisa Schott of West Windsor, and Cheryl Schott Zielkowski and her husband Rob Zielkowski, their daughter Lena, of Howell, MI, and her most dear college “sister” and friend, Joyce Melchert, as well as many, many dear friends, from Princeton and Santa Fe.

The family would like to acknowledge and thank the staff of Enchanted Sky Hospice, Scott’s House, and Nurses with Heart for their kind, compassionate and expert care of Jan during her final months of life. Tom, Jennifer and Dan would also like to recognize Fred for his unwavering love, honor, and respectful care of our dear mother. Whenever we thanked him for doing so, his response was always, “It’s my privilege.” Because of his dedicated care, Jan was able to reside at home with Fred until one week before her death, when she moved into Scott’s House.

The Princeton service for Jan will be held on Sunday, June 30, 4:00 pm at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, 177 Princeton Hightstown Road, Princeton Junction, NJ 08550. All are welcome to attend.

For those who would like to memorialize Jan, the family suggests making donations to the Westrick Music Academy, 231 Clarksville Road, Suite 8, Princeton Junction, NJ 08550 https://westrickmusic.org/

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