President—Pat Nelson is one of the founding members of BCMS and has enjoyed bringing chamber music concerts to Bellingham audiences for the past 25 years. Pat moved to Bellingham in 1996 with her husband, John, purely on a whim and because they felt the area was beautiful and diametrically different from their home in Tucson. In 1997, she joined the Whatcom Symphony as principal bassoon and subsequently served the WSO as orchestra librarian and Artistic Administrator. In this position she learned how to plan concerts, run budgets, and most importantly, book and arrange for all of the guest artists. This part of the job was Pat’s favorite, allowing her to meet and work with amazing artists like Sarah Chang, Garrick Olsson, and Midori.
In 2006, her passion for teaching took over and she began simultaneously working at Western Washington University and DigiPen as bassoon instructor and at Whatcom Community College as a music instructor teaching music appreciation, chamber ensemble, and music theory.
She and her family love living in Bellingham, a place where there is something new, diverse and exciting happening at every moment.
Vice President—Erika Block has been a fan and performing member of BCMS since 2016. She’s the clarinet instructor at WWU, Principal clarinetist of the Bellingham Symphony, Second Clarinetist of the Bellingham Festival of Music, member of Fifth Inversion wind quintet and host of classical music podcast, Inside the Notes. Erika and her family moved to Bellingham in 2011 after living in Vancouver BC for several years. There, she was the marketing director and artist relations manager for clarinet manufacturer, Backun Musical Services.
Erika is originally from the East Coast, living in nearly every state from North Carolina to Massachusetts. When Erika is not teaching and playing music, she’s running around Bellingham shuttling her two kids to their activities, doing endless home DIY projects, gardening, and going on long walks with their one-year-old Alaskan Malamute, Wolfie.
Secretary—Jennifer Weeks is an applied faculty member at Western Washington University. She studied the oboe seriously and obsessively, receiving degrees from McGill University and the Cleveland Institute of Music. Jennifer worked for many years as a professional oboist throughout Canada and the United States. She moved to Bellingham in 2000 and somewhere in the early part of that decade, decided that endlessly searching for the perfect pair of vibrating pieces of plant matter was going to make her crazy. She stuffed the oboe in a closet and returned to school to complete a degree in Environmental Science and worked for several years for the Samish Indian Nation’s Department of Natural Resources.
Unable to resist the lure of making music, Jennifer eventually dusted off the oboe, having realized she loves playing and teaching the beastly instrument. She is a member of the WWU faculty wind quintet, Fifth Inversion, and the faculty reed trio, rioT. She maintains a small private studio, loves playing chamber music, and enjoys performing in the Pacific Northwest Opera orchestra. She is an avid touring cyclist and enjoys long bike trips with her partner Molly…there’s always a lot of coffee drinking!
Elka Karl is a writer and communications consultant working with a variety of mission-driven clients. A long-ago conservatory dropout, she appreciates chamber music both as a listener and an adult amateur bassoonist (the photo here is her high school senior photo). Elka’s son, Uli Forster Speedwolf Spoerl, plays cello with the Bellingham Youth Chamber Players, and her husband Peter, another conservatory dropout, plays the clarinet. In her free time she can be found playing bassoon with the Whatcom Wind Ensemble and attempting to wrangle her two overly intelligent, highly mischievous horses Leo and Jerry.
Deborah Oksenberg is a Michigan native who moved to Bellingham in 2005, following a long stint in northern California. She is a family physician at WWU’s Student Health Center. Deborah played piano, harpsichord, and recorder, both solo and in chamber ensembles, until heading off to college and turning her attention to other pursuits, which included avid listening but not playing music. As luck would have it, Deborah spawned two serious musicians, and through them rediscovered her passion for chamber music. Along with Nancy Heyer, Deborah founded the Bellingham Youth Chamber Players, now part of the Bellingham Symphony Orchestra. She is thrilled to be part of the BCMS board, and is excited to further its mission. In her free time, Deborah enjoys running, open water swimming, cross country skiing, watching silly movies, playing piano (terribly), and hanging out with family and friends.