This interview has been lightly edited for style, content, and clarity.
How long have you been at Colburn?
I first started at Colburn in 1981. I left for some years in the middle there, from around 1990 until I came back in 1999. We used to be in an old warehouse on the USC campus.
How have you seen Colburn change over the years?
The improvements to the facilities have been amazing. They are truly world-class now!
The funny thing that hasn’t changed is the level of the students. Some of the most accomplished students to date actually came through in those timeframes, in the early to mid-’80s. There was a big influx of immigration in the early ’80s—we got so many great students coming into LA, in addition to our existing student population.
How did you get started teaching?
I was getting my master’s in piano performance at USC with Danny Pollack. I was on a teaching assistantship there and got hired to teach at what was called the USC Community School at the time before it was the Colburn School. I actually started teaching privately when I was an undergrad.
What do you love about teaching?
We get to deal with music all day. It’s always fun, and always special to talk about music. It’s great to see students in person! We get committed students and parents at Colburn. We’ve always had fantastic students, and it’s really something special to see the level of kids that are coming through. Really, they’re like sponges, absorbing everything the school has to offer.
You teach in the Conservatory, Community School, and Music Academy. What’s it like having students across those three units?
I like it because they’re just such different personalities, and such different levels of musicianship. The Conservatory is at an incredible level. Anyone that gets accepted there is already an exceptional musician, but to just see the whole range of student development throughout the entire school is amazing.
The Academy is Conservatory-in-training, so they’re kids that are getting to that level. And the Community School is everything. It’s a little bit of that level. You still get some of the incredibly talented kids, but then you get a lot of kids that are playing for fun too, for the pure joy of music.
It keeps the day interesting. I’m not teaching the same type of student all day, so it’s always a lot of variety, which is just great for the teacher and student! You don’t get bored, and every student brings something different to the table. One of the great things to see is the professional levels students attain after leaving here. It makes me very proud to see that so many of my students have become top-notch professionals in the world with CDs and tours all over the globe, making their mark in the field.
It’s very funny because I have some of their practice tapes from when they were 12 years old, and they weren’t so famous then. I stumble across them all the time downstairs. “Oh, I forgot I had this tape.” They were cassette tapes back then.
What are your students working towards right now?
In this environment, it’s always a challenge. Last year we did a lot of online competitions because that was the only way to go. This year, it’s a little bit of a mix. I have one young man that just recorded From the Top for a broadcast in the next couple of weeks. He’s getting ready to play a concerto with orchestra, the Saint-Saëns Concerto. Hopefully, it goes on as a live performance.
And then we still have a lot of smaller things we work toward, like the Bach Festival and the contemporary competitions that are out there. I like to give my students performance goals.
At Colburn, the Friday Night Recitals are a great performance opportunity for kids that are ready. That’s the immediate first goal for most kids. I’ll say, “Okay, you’re going to play on a Friday Night Recital in three weeks.” It’s amazing how much more they practice getting ready for that because those are always special events.
So, competitions, concertos, and Friday Night Recitals are really the goals to keep everyone motivated. Music itself is enough to get everyone motivated, just to play for fun. External ones don’t hurt and get their focus going at an ever-higher level.
What’s your philosophy behind teaching?
It’s different for every level. For the younger ones, it’s really to try and keep it fun, but with definite expectations—at the same time, to give them a solid background so that if they choose to excel in music, they have all the tools. That usually means a good physical approach, a good technique, reading literacy, etc. But it should be really fun at an early age.
By the time you’re in high school, it’s a different world. There are the kids that might be music majors, and the kids that are going to be doctors, or lawyers, or whatever else they’re striving for. I prepare everyone as if they might be a music major, even if they’re telling me, “Oh no, I’m going to be an engineer.” You never know. I have gotten many emails from students late in December suddenly informing me they want to be a music major!
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I also used to teach jazz piano at Colburn, and I’m proud of the fact that I have about a half dozen students out there that are pretty world-famous right now. We have a great jazz program at Colburn now with Lee Secard directing it, and Liz Kinnon teaching jazz piano. I love all music and playing the piano, so being at Colburn is about as special as it can get.
Central to the Colburn School’s commitment to providing equitable access to excellence, students in Mr. Lavner’s studio are generously offered scholarship support funded by our community of donors through their annual and endowment gifts. Such scholarships include the Herbert Zipper Scholarship program which offers highly motivated, deserving students the opportunity to engage in comprehensive music education at Colburn. Herbert Zipper Scholars receive instruction in music theory, private lessons, and ensemble participation, among many other academic and performance opportunities. The School would also like to show special appreciation for donors who offer students support through other avenues, such as instrument donations. Donors who give the gift of an instrument equip students with the resources they need to become thriving artists with access to the highest quality music education.
How did you get started in the performing arts?
When I was younger, I would always run around the house, so my mom thought it was a good idea to put me in ballet. I started ballet when I was three at a community dance studio. Then when I was around 10, I started getting more serious about ballet, so I moved studios to a more professional one. At 12, I actually discovered musical theater. That’s when I did my first musical theater performance, Beauty and the Beast. I played Lumiere. I went on to perform more roles such as Wednesday Addams in The Addams Family and Millie Dillmount in Thoroughly Modern Millie. I just enjoyed being on stage.
Something about musical theater that’s different from ballet is that you can use your voice. When you no longer have any words to say you can convey emotion through song. I like having that option. Ballet is very different. You don’t get to talk so every emotion must be conveyed through your face and body language. I love and see the value in both.
How do you see the two genres overlap?
I have seen many shows on Broadway with ballet in them. I love it when they incorporate ballet because it is the perfect mix for me. One of my absolute favorite shows that I have seen on Broadway was Carousel. It was choreographed by my favorite choreographer, Justin Peck. I was at the edge of my seat the whole show. I just could not get enough. His choreography is mesmerizing and brought in the perfect mix of ballet and theater. They also brought in some [New York City Ballet] dancers for the run of the show, which I thought was so cool because they are living my ideal life of being a dancer and on Broadway at the same time.
Elements of theater are also brought into ballets with some sort of a storyline. I love these ballets because I can bring my acting skills to them. Another one of my favorite choreographers is Jerome Robbins. His ballets are very theatrical, so I tend to gravitate towards them.
How did you find your way to Colburn?
I always loved and preferred the Balanchine technique, however my dance studio at the time was very classical, and I would often find myself wanting more leeway from the basic classical ballet so I could express myself without restrictions.
I had a friend that went to the same dance studio at the time, and she moved to Colburn. I ended up auditioning for Dance Academy and got in. I was so excited to be able to dance Balanchine technique with such amazing faculty. Once Covid hit, I ended up doing my first year of Dance Academy on Zoom. Though not my ideal year, I learned so much and felt very strong when it came time to join my friends back in the studio.
How have your classes been going so far this year?
It’s been great. It’s definitely different being back in the studio around all my peers. I feel like the energy is so much different than just being in your room by yourself. We used to have a slightly modified schedule so we wouldn’t be so hard on ourselves during Zoom, but now we’re back into the full schedule and I am loving it.
How do you think your training at the Dance Academy will help you in musical theater?
I always say that ballet is the root of all styles because it helps you with everything. Once you know ballet, you can merge into jazz, contemporary, tap, even hip hop if you want to because you learn how to find your place of center. Also, I think the more skills I have under my belt, the better, because you never know what a show calls for. So it’s great to learn as many skills as possible for the highest chance of booking a role. When I look back on the best opportunities I’ve had, it’s because of my dance training. It really does make a difference.
What are you working on right now?
Right now, we are going to be the first students to do The Goldberg Variations by Jerome Robbins. It’s very exciting because we’re some of the very few dancers that have gotten to do this material. It’s very challenging to say the least. So, we’ve been working very hard in the studios to put on a great show. I just love Jerome Robbins’ work so it’s very exciting to be able to do one of his ballets.
How would you describe The Goldberg Variations to people who might be unfamiliar with it?
It’s very fast paced, even for the pianist. The steps themselves aren’t very far off from a regular ballet class but they’ve got that classic Robbins spin on them that makes it so enticing.
There was also a student choreography show at the end of the semester. Would you speak about that?
Last Saturday, we showcased our works. I was very excited when we first heard about this project. I love choreographing. I usually choreograph for myself for fun, and I’ve even gotten the opportunity to choreograph a few numbers of Annie the musical for a local theater. I love exercising my creativity and showcasing my ideas. My piece is called City Strut with music by Benny Goodman. It’s a very jazzy solo heavily influenced by George Balanchine’s Who Cares?
What else have you been involved with recently?
In September, I had the opportunity to play Diana Morales in A Chorus Line at the GEM Theater in Garden Grove. That opportunity came out of nowhere. I saw a Facebook post saying ,”We’re looking for a Diana in A Chorus Line,” and I thought to myself, “Wait, I’m perfect for Diana.” Though I was a bit young for the role considering she is 27 and I am 16, I still went out and auditioned anyway because I had nothing to lose. I ended up getting the role on the same day that I auditioned.
We had rehearsals for about two weeks and then we went into tech for another week. We had a four-week run, and it was probably the best experience of my life. I’ve never been a part of a cast that has been just so caring towards each other and so talented. The show itself holds such an emotional place in my heart because the show was based on real stories. Singing “What I Did for Love” every night brought me and the audience to tears, and I loved feeling their energy.
That sounds incredible. What was significant about that experience?
I feel like I really grew as an actor and person during that time. My director, Damien Lorton, was absolutely amazing. He really knows how to bring out emotion from all of the actors. He took a scene and turned it into something that I had never thought of before. I’m very grateful for him and my cast mates. I’ve learned so much from just watching them perform. This is the first time I have done a show with only adults around me. I was the youngest in the cast by far; it was very different. When I first walked into the theater, I was terrified, feeling like I had to live up to their expectations, but they reassured me and built me up.
What’s your dream role?
I have a lot but to name a few dance-wise, I would love to be in Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, Who Cares?, and Carmen. For musical theater, I would love to play Maria in West Side Story, Nina from In the Heights, Anastasia in Anastasia, and Natalie in Next to Normal.
What drives you to keep going with your art?
When I was younger, I had a hard time with kids at my school. I was bullied a lot and made fun of for having these big aspirations. I always found that interesting because I had big dreams for my future, but other kids thought that was weird and were dragging me down for it. I ended up switching to homeschool when things got too hard at school. My dance schedule was changed to the morning, which was better for me in the end because I got more time to train that way.
There is a flame in me telling me to keep going no matter how many noes I receive and no matter how many people are trying to drag me down because there will always be people trying to drag you down in this business. What matters most is what you do about it and how you take that negativity and make something wonderful. So, I will not take no for an answer. I will keep going until I get a yes.
Do you have any advice for dancers younger than you?
Someone else’s success is not your failure. Spending all your time upset about the things you don’t receive doesn’t do you any good. You can still be a bit disappointed but don’t let that take over and define who you are. Just keep working hard and eventually everything will fall in line.
Special appreciation goes to the Colburn Society members whose annual support is directed to the Trudl Zipper Dance Institute, including the extraordinary generosity of Ann Mulally, David Kobrin, Aliza and Michael Lesser, Lucy Farber and Jim Bright, Mazie and Gabriel Hoffman, Anne and Jeffrey Grausam, Meltem and Mehmet Ozpay, George and Linda Cassady, Susan Friedman, and Layla and Gac Kim. To learn more on how you can support our students, contact email@example.com.
This interview has been edited for length, style, and clarity.
How did you start playing the violin?
When I started, I was actually living in Florida at the time. I was there for a couple years because of my dad’s work. One of my earliest memories is a music class when I was four years old. I was super drawn to the violin in particular; I don’t really know why. And I remember being seven, I was like, yeah, I would love to do this. My school offered it and it just developed from there.
As you started playing, what did you love about the violin?
I was so obsessed with the repertoire of the instrument in particular. From a very young age, I would listen to CDs on end of all the great violin masters. We became so obsessed with the different concerti and the sonatas in the repertoire. I always had this goal of being able to play the violin well enough to play some of the things that I loved listening to so much and loved seeing on stage. So falling in love with the repertoire in particular was something that kept fueling the fire, wanting to learn how to play better and better so I could actually conquer some of this music eventually or at least attempt to in my life.
When did you realize that you wanted to do it professionally?
When I was 12 years old, I went to Interlochen. That was a very formative experience for me, going there for three weeks, my first sleepaway camp, and then being exposed to all these other amazing young, talented musicians. I was just so inspired by that environment and playing with an orchestra for the first time. I think I played Rimsky-Korsakov’s Russian Easter Festival Overture. It was my first time playing with a full string section, full winds and brass, full percussion. I remember going home being like, “I really want to do this. I really want to go for it.” So that’s what started it, and I was very fortunate to have parents who to this day support my musical pursuits.
Is that around when you started studying at the Community School?
I started Colburn a year after that. My parents and I started looking into, okay, where could we go to foster a potential professional development? And we found the Community School.
What was your Community School experience like?
I had an amazing Community School experience. It was really inspiring—not only my lessons with my teacher Danielle Belen, who I ended up studying with in Michigan as well, but also my orchestral experience there. I still have friends today that I met when I was in ninth grade and that I hang out with to this day. It’s pretty cool because of the way classical music works too, especially if you stay in the field, you just keep running into people that you met years and years ago through all these different music festivals and schools and stuff like that.
I also worked with Maxim Eshkenazy a lot. He was my conductor back then. He made a very profound impression on me when I was younger and concertmaster of those orchestras. And then later in life, we went on tour in Bulgaria together multiple times.
Another big thing for me was working with Ida Levin when she was alive. She was just such an intelligent and sensitive and wonderful musician and teacher. I worked with her for three years as part of the Honors Quartet in the Community School.
So between private lessons and orchestra and chamber, it was a really cool experience to have in between my pretty rigorous, academic high school experience. So yeah, it was very formative actually, now that I look back on it with 20/20 hindsight.
What brought you back to Colburn after undergrad?
It was always a goal of mine to come to Colburn for graduate school. I always had the idea that I would do a university for my undergraduate and then go to a conservatory for graduate school, preferably Colburn. My teacher in high school and then at Michigan, Danielle Belen, was a former student of Mr. Lipsett and was his assistant. So there was always this idea I had in mind that it’d be really great to work with him in particular and go to Colburn with the environment which I had been exposed to at the Community School, and just the intensity and the high level of performance that exists uniquely at Colburn.
What are some of the things that led into your professional development as a Conservatory student?
Well first and foremost, my studies with Mr. Lipsett were really important, especially the studio class experience and the environment that he fosters amongst the studio. There’s this expectation of excellence which is just felt by everyone, not in a top-down enforced way, but everyone intrinsically wants to play their best and are palpably inspired by Mr. Lipsett’s incredible teaching. My studio mates are all amazing and it’s super inspiring to see how they perform and to observe their world-class technical and musical abilities. It inspires me a lot being there and then also playing for them. The high intensity of Studio Class in particular has been a really integral part of my development that supplements of course my one-on-one lessons with Mr. Lipsett.
And then, the chamber music at Colburn has been outstanding. I’ve had wonderful groups and wonderful coaches and the [Colburn Chamber Music Society] experience of playing with [Conservatory faculty] Martin Beaver doing a late Beethoven quartet. And then over the pandemic, I played the remarkable Weinberg piano trio with [Conservatory faculty] Clive Greensmith and Dominic Cheli, alumnus of Colburn.
Of course, orchestra has been incredible at Colburn too. Working with Yehuda Gilad, Esa-Pekka Salonen, and many other renowned conductors that are brought in—it’s just an amazing environment. Being exposed to all of these different elements of world-class performance prepares you for the professional world. Having all those performance elements in a place like Colburn definitely helps you propel to the next level.
Recently, you’ve been working on the Recovered Voices 2021: Schulhoff and More project. What has that been like?
The Ziering-Conlon Initiative for Recovered Voices is a fascinating program I want to bring attention to that I believe is integral in creating the whole Colburn environment. It’s been a really life-changing and career shifting thing for me actually. I was exposed to the Recovered Voices Initiative when I played on a concert with the former director of chamber music, Scott St. John, and another student at the Thomas Mann House. We played a concert there and I remember James Conlon spoke and he really unpacked what the mission of the Recovered Voices Initiative is, which is to perform and promote the music of composers who were suppressed as a result of Nazi policies from 1933 to 1945.
I was so inspired by that particular event that it just wedged into my mind. And when the pandemic hit, I found myself with more time to actually explore this body of work and this area of musical history. I got really deep into the Recovered Voices composers, and as a result I was connected with Bob Elias, who is a fountain of knowledge. He has become a profoundly important person in my life also and has assumed a wonderful role as a mentor in exploring these composers and helping me with different ideas that I have of performing this music. In this past year, we worked on a lot of the music of Erwin Schulhoff and recorded eight of his works, which is all coming out this year, and that’s been amazing.
It’s been wonderful too because not only have I been working so much with Bob Elias, but I’ve also been put into direct contact with James Conlon which has been truly life-changing for me. I’ve been learning so much from him about this body of work. We’ve been collaborating on repertoire and artistic choices for programming with Recovered Voices this upcoming year and we recorded multiple pieces together last year. It’s been a very important thing for me working with James Conlon who has inspired me so much, just being able to experience his tremendous artistry and intellect first hand.
What’s the personal significance of the project for you?
These composers deserve to be heard and they deserve to be known because I think there is so much amazing music that they wrote. It’s a lost treasure trove of music from the 20th century. It feels like you are uncovering works by your favorite composers that you never found before. So it’s like playing new music but it’s in the style of the greatest composers of the 20th century. They act as this missing link and this conduit between all these different aesthetic styles in Western art music.
It’s so unbelievable to me that we don’t know who they are, but this is because of the actions of the Nazis in the 1930s and 40s. They tried to wipe these composers off the face of the earth and also their legacies, and they destroyed the cultural gardens in which they flourished in Europe at the time. And so we now don’t know who a lot of them are, like Schulhoff or Weinberg or Schreker or Zemlinsky, and they aren’t part of the canon. That’s something that I feel very strongly about undoing because I think it’s necessary when there’s injustice for it to be corrected, of course.
And then also fundamentally, I aesthetically believe in this music very, very strongly after going through it and listening to it and playing it so much. I really believe in these composers and I want to get them onto the concert stage and accepted as part of the canon as much as possible. So it’s held that kind of significance for me as an artist and also as someone who’s so passionate about music.
You mentioned that the project has been career shifting. What has that shift been?
Recovered Voices has shown me how much I want to pursue a deeper study of these composers and to become truly an expert as much as I can in this area. And potentially in my dream of dreams, I’m thinking about maybe pursuing a DMA or a doctorate with a performance focus in these composers.
I could see myself hopefully in the future incorporating a multifaceted career, not only with the traditional kind of performance avenues which I need to have in my life, but also doing more things like I’m doing right now with Recovered Voices, which is more curatorial. I would also love to get into academic research and potentially even teaching in this field of the Recovered Voices composers.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I’ve felt a lot of support at Colburn from all levels of the School which I think is really unique. So I love all my colleagues at the School, my teacher, all the other teachers at the School too. There’s a very nurturing environment too, of musicianship.
I’ve also found, especially with my passion for Recovered Voices, it’s been amazing to see how much the teachers and my colleagues at the School have been so receptive to it. Working with Bob Elias and James Conlon has just been amazing, and Annie Wickert, [Vice President of Advancement], has been an incredible person to get to know and to work with as well. It’s been a really exciting thing to experience this kind of support as I continue to develop as a professional.
Special appreciation goes to the Colburn Society members whose support makes the Ziering-Conlon Initiative for Recovered Voices possible. To learn more, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
What’s your musical background? How did you start playing clarinet?
Both my parents are musicians. My mom’s a flutist and my dad’s also a clarinetist, like I am. So he actually taught me when I was really little until I was 13[which was when I auditioned for Colburn. I started playing when I was three, but not with the full-size clarinet because I was too small to play one. He gave me a mouthpiece, and I just played around with it like a toy. When I was five or six, I started with a really, really small plastic clarinet. And as my fingers grew, I moved up in size of clarinet, and my dad was always there, teaching me. So that’s how I started.
How did you decide that you wanted to study at Colburn?
Up until middle school, I was doing competitions, but I wasn’t necessarily taking music the most seriously that I could. My dad was basically telling me, “If you want to take this seriously, you need to study with the best professors out there.” And one of the best professors, if not the best clarinet professor, in the US right now is Yehuda Gilad. I saw that he taught at Colburn, so that’s why I auditioned.
What is it like studying with him?
He’s a great teacher. He’s very passionate, very wise. I’ve studied with him for a very long time. I’m probably his youngest Academy student that he’s accepted so far. This is my fourth year.
At this point it’s like, he’s my teacher, yes, but he also feels like part of my family. He always looks out for me and takes care of me. So there is a special bond, and you can really feel that every lesson.
How do you think he’s helped you develop as a musician?
Wow. He’s helped me in so many ways. The very first years I came here, we focused mainly on building strong fundamentals. But now, he’s probably impacted me the most in changing the way that I think.
Before I studied with Yehuda, I was always trying to copy other people’s sound. I would hear a really good recording on YouTube and I would be like, “Oh, I want to sound like her, him.” But after studying with Yehuda, I realized that the best sound is your own sound. And so I changed the way I think. Now when I’m practicing, I’m thinking more like, “How do I want myself to sound?” instead of, “How do I copy someone else?” It’s more about the mindset.
You mentioned that you were the youngest Academy student he’s accepted. Why do you think he chose to accept you into his studio?
Honestly, I have no idea. My prescreening recordings were kind of hilarious. I recorded them in my living room. Terrible acoustics with my iPhone. I really had no idea what I was doing. I think, or I hoped, at least, he saw some potential. I was nowhere near perfect when I auditioned, but I really loved music, and I still love music. And I think he saw that when I was playing. So that might be one of the reasons why.
Why do you love music?
It’s become such a vital part of my life. I can’t imagine myself without music. It’s been part of my life since I was a baby. Every day I heard my parents teaching, practicing.
It’s become such a part of my life that when I hear something, I love the music, but I also love the memories that comes with the music. So when I hear a clarinet sonata, I love the sonata, but I also hear my dad practicing in the living room. I honestly cannot live without it because of all those personal connections and memories.
Do you have a favorite piece to play or listen to?
It always changes, but currently, I’ll say Mozart clarinet quintet, because I’m really enjoying playing it with my chamber group right now. It’s one of my favorite pieces ever.
I particularly like the second movement. I like all the movements, but I like the second movement because of how calm it is, very relaxing. Sometimes I listen to it before I go to sleep. But also after the second movement, towards the end, there’s a really playful melody that you honestly don’t need to take too seriously, which is why it’s more interesting and more fun to play. It sounds humorous to a certain extent. I just like how the atmosphere is very light and lively, especially the last couple of movements.
How has it been at Colburn in general over the last four years?
It’s been a ride. There are lots of really, really great things about Colburn, like of course, the music element. But Colburn has also taught me so much about life in general, including so many life lessons and things that you can’t really learn when you’re just at home: experience, connections, friends, colleagues, and teachers. It helped me grow as a musician, but also helped me grow as a person and helped me develop myself in that kind of way. It’s almost like my second home at this point.
What’s been one of your most memorable experiences?
There’s so many to choose from. Actually, my most memorable experience was in a private lesson just with Yehuda. I was working on some fundamentals and I was having some trouble; I couldn’t quite get it, but there was a moment in the lesson where it clicked and everything fell into place. And that moment, Yehuda was extremely happy and I was really happy, and it was such an important moment for me, because from that day on, everything fell into play. That was probably one of my most memorable moments during my lessons.
This is your last year in the Music Academy. What are you planning to do with your music in the future?
I really want to play in an orchestra when I’m older, just because I love the feeling of… I mean, solo playing is really great. Playing solo is just a completely different feeling. You’re able to connect with the audience in a certain way when you’re playing solo, and you can do more with the music; there’s more creativity. And that’s something that I really like when I’m playing solo rep. That’s also why I like contemporary music.
But I also really love playing in an orchestra setting because of the feeling of playing together with a community. There’s something I can’t really describe, when all of these instruments come together and blend and create a certain sound. It’s a really, really amazing feeling. And I felt it when I was in NYO [National Youth Orchestra] the past summer. That was my first time playing in an orchestra since the pandemic. So it was like a new experience, but it was so great because everyone was so connected. We were listening to each other. The conductor was fantastic leading us. Just the whole element of community in an orchestra, I really like that.
This interview has been lightly edited for style and clarity.
How long have you been playing the flute and how did you get started?
I started when I was nine, so, that’s eight years. I wanted to play violin at first, but the junior high I was going into didn’t have an orchestra, and I wanted to be part of the music program. It only offered band, so that’s why I chose flute instead of violin.
How did that decision turn out for you? What did you learn about the flute?
I have actually played the piano since I was four, and I think picking up a woodwind instrument was first of all, very different, because I had never really had to think about breathing before. Now that I play a woodwind instrument, I have to think about where exactly I should take a breath. I thought a lot more about the phrasing, because it would matter where I took the breath since it would chop off the music if I took it in the wrong spot. Because of this, I transferred my “music-phrasing analyzing” skills to the piano, and in this way, I was able to grow a lot as a musician.
I also learned a lot about tone because with the piano, if you put your finger on it, it already makes a beautiful sound. But then the flute, the first time I tried playing it, I couldn’t even make a sound. So for the first couple months, all I worked on was my tone; while in my piano lesson, I would already be playing short pieces. Thus, because of the flute, I focused a lot more on my sound and that helped me become more sensitive overall, whether that be playing the flute or the piano.
Do you still play the piano?
What’s it like balancing the two?
It’s really hard. It used to be a lot easier before high school, but now that I’m in high school and I’m a senior, I’m taking a lot of hard classes. So it’s hard to balance the time, but I do try to balance it out as best as I can.
What are some of the differences you’ve noticed?
I’m not able to practice the flute as much as the piano because I physically get tired. After a couple of hours, for example, my embouchure starts getting worse because of fatigue. So compared to piano, the amount of time I practice has changed.
Also, the types of exercises I do to warm up have been very different. They’ve been more focused on tone and vibrato, as I’ve hinted at before.
How are you feeling about being back on campus at Colburn?
I’m excited to come back. I haven’t been able to do chamber and orchestra this past year, so I’m really excited to be back in person.
How were the virtual classes you took last year?
I took private lessons last year, and it was really hard, honestly. I think it’s a lot easier with piano. I also have to take virtual lessons for piano, and with woodwind the sound is a lot different. For example, the vibrato sometimes makes the sound cut out completely or the high notes aren’t even picked up. So, that makes it really hard. But I think my teacher made the best out of the situation, and I was still able to learn a lot and grow a lot.
What kinds of things did you learn during that time that you’ll continue to work on?
I practiced a lot for vibrato, and it was really weird practicing vibrato because I never had to do it for piano. I think it really helped my tone for the flute. And I really liked my sound after I did those exercises over and over again. So I think I’ll definitely be continuing those exercises in the future.
How has your time at Colburn been overall?
Colburn has been really great. Before I joined Colburn, I was just with a small music school and there weren’t a lot of performances. I love connecting with the audience, and I love performing. So Colburn really allowed me to foster my passion for performing even more. It was great with all the Friday Night Recitals, the School Recitals, and the Honors Recitals, too.
What were some of your favorite performances?
I only got to do Colburn [Youth] Orchestra for one year. So I think there was only one concert before the pandemic hit. That one will always be a really vivid memory for me. Also because I had the Honors Recital on the same day, so I had two big concerts in one day. It was really jam packed, but it worked out. We performed the Nielsen Flute Concerto with another flutist as the soloist, and I think Beethoven. And for the Honors Recital, I performed Eldin Burton’s Sonatina for Flute and Piano.
You’re in both chamber and orchestra. Do you prefer one over the other?
I think they both have their own perks. I really love both. I can’t really choose. I think orchestra is a little bit harder because you have to listen to so many other instruments.
With chamber, I’m in a woodwind quintet this year, so it’s just woodwinds. And I know the other instruments better because they’re part of the woodwind family. So I’d say orchestra is a little bit harder, but I do love being a part of both.
What do you hope to do with your music in the future?
I definitely plan on continuing to play flute, continuing to play in orchestra and chamber music. It’s been a big part of my life, and with how much it’s impacted me, I don’t think I’ll be able to just quit and not play anymore. So I think I’ll definitely carry it on as I transition to college.
How has music impacted you?
It definitely gave me a community to be in, because I grew up in Indonesia and then moved here. When I was in the US, I had a little bit of a hard time fitting in because I couldn’t exactly speak English. But then being part of band really helped me to make friends, for example, because I was really shy. But yeah, it gave me a community that I could be a part of and that I could be proud of too.
When did you start dancing and playing the violin?
I started with pre-ballet when I was in preschool, so three or four years old. And I started playing the violin when I had just turned five.
How did you decide to start playing the violin?
When I was four, I wanted to learn the flute, because that’s what I thought Hello Kitty played, but [when I tried it out], I couldn’t make a sound out of the flute. And then I tried the violin, and I was able to make a sound. My mom had my great-grandfather’s violin from Indonesia, and I discovered that it was something I could actually do.
What’s it been like doing both dance and music at the same time?
It’s been a little complicated, just because they’re two big commitments, but I really love them both. Having both of them now at Colburn has been a lot more efficient than having them at two different locations and commuting through LA traffic.
You study with a few teachers at Colburn. How is that?
For Modern Dance, I have three teachers: Tamsin Carlson, Yuka Fukuda, and Chard Gonzalez. They are all amazing and they each focus on different modern dance techniques like Cunningham and Horton. Each of them also has different approaches to teaching and notices different things about the way each dancer dances and how we can improve. So all of that together [makes us better dancers overall].
As part of the Modern Dance program, we also continue to take ballet with Ms. Gillespie who has also been wonderful. I am really grateful for Tamsin as our Modern Dance chair; not only is she an amazing dancer and teacher, but she leads the program with such positivity.
I’ve been studying with Joanna Lee, one of my violin teachers, for a long time. She’s seen me grow from eight or nine years old to now, 14. So she’s put up with me for five years and has been there for every step of my musical development. She’s one of the most energetic and dedicated people I know. I’m really, really grateful that she has stuck by me.
Studying with Ms. Batjer has been amazing. I feel so fortunate to be part of her studio because I have been able to see the huge development her students have all made and all their amazing successes, which she genuinely cherishes; it really inspires me. I really look up to her and try to remember everything she teaches me. Every time I come out of a lesson, I feel like I have learned and gained so much more knowledge to make me a better violinist and artist.
I also study music theory with Kathy Sawada which has really enhanced my interpretation of music for both violin and dance. Ms. Sawada has been wonderful and I’ve learned so much, despite the fact that all of my time with her has been during the pandemic.
What has it been like at Colburn in general? Has it been different from other places you’ve studied?
Colburn has so many opportunities, especially the concerts that they hold and the artists they are able to bring in. For dance, we had somebody from the Cunningham Trust come and teach us official Cunningham repertory.
Actually, the Modern Dance program at Colburn is really unique because of the partnership Colburn has with the Cunningham Trust. Being able to dance official Merce Cunningham repertory is very rare for dancers my age and is only made possible because of this partnership.
What did you learn from the Cunningham Trust?
In the fall semester, Cunningham Trust stager Marcie Munnerlyn came in and staged a piece for our Modern V class from Merce Cunningham’s repertory, Changing Steps. Filmmaker Heather Seybolt then created a film based on all of our dances that we did; we were all really proud of it.
What have been some other notable experiences at Colburn?
Right before the pandemic, I performed Corelli’s Concerto Grosso as one of the three soloists for the Colburn String Orchestra in Zipper Hall, which was a highlight.
Seeing and meeting Ray Chen last year right before the pandemic was also memorable.
Even during the pandemic, I was able to play in a master class with Almita Vamos, which I was very grateful for and which I found very helpful to hear her perspective on my playing.
What have you learned from those experiences with guest artists?
The modern dance techniques, like Cunningham and Horton, are so unique. It’s not really something that I’ve learned anywhere else besides Colburn. It’s freer than ballet, which I previously studied, and doesn’t have as many rules, which is so interesting. I also find it fascinating to watch, and having guest artists come really expanded my exposure to this art form.
For music, with the master classes, you’re constantly working and improving your techniques. Having somebody else objectively evaluate your performance and give you feedback is really beneficial.
When did you make the switch from ballet to modern?
I did ballet all the way through pointe, and then I learned about the Modern Dance program from [Associate Dean] James Fayette. I actually did modern dance at Colburn and ballet at another studio simultaneously for a year, before deciding to focus on modern completely.
I found myself drawn to modern dance because it was like a whole new dance world that was different from ballet, even though my ballet training continues to be essential for modern dance, like the basics.
How has your ballet training been essential to modern dance?
I started modern at level three, so I didn’t start from the very beginning. When I started, I found that a lot of the steps and balances, and the phrases—the way you put them together—are kind of based on ballet, but different. While the basics may be similar, modern dance challenges the structured nature of ballet in a way.
How about music and dance? Do either of those influence the way you approach the other?
I think learning music influences the way that I’ve approached dance because they’re different art forms and they each tell a story. And while the technical aspect is very different, they really complement each other and they’ve both helped me develop artistically.
I think when you’re dancing, you’re telling a story and your movements have to show that story. When you’re playing violin, you also have to show them a story, but in a different way, because you’re helping the audience visualize it with the music and trying to draw out specific emotions.
What are you looking forward to when we go back to campus in the fall?
In terms of dance, I’m definitely looking forward to the studio space, because there’s just not a lot of space for dancing in my bedroom at home. I am also looking forward to being able to learn again from the other dancers in the studio and pick up on what they’re doing and draw inspiration from them.
For violin, there were so many things we could not do in person. We weren’t able to do orchestra or chamber music this year. I really enjoy both of those, so I’m really looking forward to that.
For both dance and music, I also think just being able to perform again in front of a live audience and in an actual performance hall will feel amazing.
Despite the pandemic, I feel that I’ve still grown a lot, technically and artistically, and my teachers deserve a lot of credit for that. I also am very grateful to our Dean, Jenifer Ringer, because she really pivoted [Trudl Zipper Dance Institute] (TZDI) to online classes immediately and kept all of us engaged throughout the pandemic, and even coordinated a TZDI-wide Nutcracker!
Do you have any idea what you might want to do with music and dance in the future?
I think the next four years of high school would be important for me to decide on how I can build a career in both music and dance or the arts in general. There are so many great role models at Colburn to look up to. All of my teachers have had really successful careers in the arts, so it’d be incredible to do the same.
This interview has been lightly edited for style, content, and clarity.
How did you start playing the clarinet?
What happened was that I watched a movie, Home Alone, when I was eight years old. In one of the last scenes, a band of musicians was playing in the movie, and one of the musicians was a clarinetist. When I listened to the sound, it was so good. It was so good to me that I was convinced to start practicing that instrument.
So for the next academic year, I told my parents, ‘Hey, I want to play this instrument.’ I was so convinced that I wanted to play it that I actually bought one, even though there was no clarinet to borrow at my music school.
I spent three years at the school and then I moved to Toledo to the conservatory for another six years. Later, I started my bachelor’s in Spain and then continued in LA.
How did you decide that you wanted to pursue music professionally?
Maybe after three years or so when I started my pre-college degree, I was pretty sure that I wanted to pursue this kind of career because I was doing well. My teachers were very good and supported me a lot, and my family too. Sometimes talking about [a career in] music and art is taboo; it’s like, you should be a doctor or a lawyer or whatever. Their support was very important for me.
And then, not just being in school, but having some competitions and playing in orchestras, made me realize that I wanted to pursue a musical career.
What about music was it that spoke to you?
It’s so interesting when you go somewhere to play for a concert and an audience listens to you. That moment, that act is so good. I was fascinated about the fact that I could express my feelings through a musical instrument, through the sound.
At the time I was thinking that actually, life was better with music. Music was capable of making you laugh or be sad or be brave; I wanted to express that with the audience, so the audience, regardless of their background in terms of status or knowledge about music, could be together and listen to you as a unit. That was the major idea behind that.
How did you decide to study at Colburn?
I’ve known Mr. Gilad [Yehuda Gilad] since I was 13 or 14. Actually, he loves Spain because of the weather, but especially because of the food. He had a lot of Spanish students in the past, so he went to Spain very often to give master classes, courses, and seminars. The teacher that I had in the conservatory in Toledo was one of Mr. Gilad’s students in the master classes. He introduced me to Mr. Gilad.
I started getting to know Mr. Gilad, and I felt that he was great in terms of teaching and motivation. That was the main reason why I ended up at Colburn, because I really wanted to study with him.
Before applying to Colburn, I learned a little bit more about the school, and it was so good. I was so impressed that Colburn was so good regarding scholarships and location, and had all kinds of artistic excellence as well. I fell in love with my teacher and with the school as well.
How has it been at Colburn?
For me it wasn’t just Colburn, but the transition from Europe to America. The culture is different, and it was a fascinating shift. My time at Colburn, besides this year on Zoom and with the laptop, was great because I started knowing things about America that I didn’t know before. For instance, when I first arrived in LA to stay there, I didn’t know about the diversity within the community in LA in general.
More specifically about Colburn, I really liked, similarly, the diversity within the school body. Many people came from Asia, some people from Europe, many American people as well. It was great living with the other students, because the relationship with them is quite different than if you are living off-campus.
What have been some notable experiences at Colburn?
For me, it was pretty different to have a weekly Performance Forum. That was a great experience because all the student body, the teachers, and the administration were there, which is pretty exciting.
Many of them know a lot of music, so they’re very hard judges in some ways. That is a kind of experience that you don’t have everywhere; it’s not the same as if you are playing a concert for other people, for a regular audience. I think that was very good.
Also, the performing opportunities in terms of chamber music. I was very lucky because I played on Concerto Forum last January. I was the soloist with the Colburn Orchestra. That was very exciting as well. It was my first soloistic appearance in America and in LA.
You’ve also won several competitions this past year.
Yes, I won the Vandoren Emerging Artist Competition, which was my first achievement in an American competition. Vandoren is a major clarinet brand, so it was a very important competition for me. I also got second prize in the Pasadena Showcase Competition.
This year I won a clarinet competition online, and I won another competition two weeks ago for all instruments. When we were just at home with the computer, I thought that it was very important to stay active in some way, so I was applying for competitions. Luckily that was a good [experience], but I hope that the upcoming competitions are live and not online anymore.
How have you managed your practice and motivation while at home?
Actually, that was part of the reason why I wanted to do these things. The beginning of the pandemic was pretty fine for me actually. I came back and enjoyed being with my family. I was still motivated because I was preparing for some international competitions which were supposed to be live. I had a lot to prepare, so I was motivated, but then suddenly some of them were canceled or postponed.
And that’s when I started not to feel well because I didn’t have a purpose. That’s why I started applying for competitions in order to have a goal and to achieve it.
I also had the opportunity to play with some orchestras in Spain. I played with the Spanish National Youth Orchestra in the summer. Then, with the European Union Youth Orchestra, we did a small residence, also in the summer. During Christmas, I played with some professional orchestras in Madrid as well. I tried to have many things to handle and to induce motivation.
Of course, like everyone, I faced some times of not having the motivation that I wanted to have because of the situation. Another important problem was mental health. Many people have faced that, myself too.
What are you looking forward to when we’re back on campus?
First of all, just being around, if possible, many other people. Musically speaking, I want to perform way more. I realize in the pandemic that since you are alone at this time, you have to be ingenious in some way in order to stay active, like playing online with some other people, editing a video together. That was a very important skill that I’ve improved during this time.
It will be great when I get back to LA, because I can perform with other people, play more repertoire, like things that maybe last year I was thinking, ‘Oh, I’m too busy,’ or whatever.
I really want to speak more English as well, because here I listen to a lot of English, but I don’t speak much. I think it will be great to come back to LA in many ways: to keep getting to know the city, to live with people, to play more music, to have in-person classes with my clarinet teacher and with everyone else.
How did you start playing the cello?
My brother played the violin. When I was little, I used to want to do everything my brother was doing. So I also wanted to start the violin at age 3, but it wasn’t a good match for me, and I was not really ready to take any formal lessons.
My mom was watching Yo-Yo Ma’s YouTube videos, and I was excited about how the instrument was way bigger than the violin. That’s why I started the cello at four. Then I slowly fell in love with the sound.
How did you start studying at Colburn?
When I was in fifth grade, I saw older students in the studio playing chamber music, and I wanted to start it, too. I asked my then-teacher, Sarah Koo. She had a few students who were enrolled in the [Ed and Mari Edelman Chamber Music Institute] program at Colburn and seemed to enjoy it a lot. So I applied for an audition.
What did you learn from the Chamber Music Institute?
I had zero experience with chamber, so it was really something brand new to me. I started off with piano trio with amazing coaches, Jennie Jung and Varty Manouelian. I learned a lot of communication skills with my colleagues. I learned how to cooperate with others to make music together.
What else did you participate in during your time in the Community School?
I did a few Honors Recitals and I got to meet other talented performers in the backstage and at receptions. That was really fun, especially because I got to play at Zipper Hall. It’s such a huge hall and it sounds amazing, so that was really exciting. I also got to perform at LACMA a couple times for KUSC’s radio show.
I was in an honor program, which gave me a lot of opportunities such as master classes. Last year, before the pandemic broke out, I got to play for Sheku Kanneh-Mason in a master class. I also had an opportunity to get chamber music coachings from renowned musicians such as David Finckel and Peter Wiley.
Now you’re a Music Academy student studying with Clive Greensmith. How have your lessons with him been?
I had expected to study with him in-person obviously, but virtual lessons are actually not as bad as I had thought would be. Over time, I think we both got used to [the technology challenges]. His teachings are still amazing nevertheless. And I’ve been learning a lot. We’ve been going through a lot of musical ideas and he gave me a lot of tips about technique and just overall developing parts of that needed a little bit more work. But I really wish to get back in-person soon.
What’s been special about the Music Academy this past year?
The Academy has a lot of communication classes. There are seminars where we learn about development of communication with the audience. Sometimes we had a drama teacher come and she would teach us to open up and be freer. It helps to bring that into our music and playing. So there’s definitely a lot of trying to open ourselves up.
You were just accepted into the Conservatory. What made you decide to come back for undergrad?
The number one thing is Mr. Greensmith. He’s just an amazing teacher. Over this year, even if it was all through virtual and through Zoom, I felt that I really wanted to continue studying with him. Especially since I only got to study with him for one year, I wanted to continue studying with him. Another thing is the level of his studio. I have attended his studio class for a year and have been so inspired by everyone.
Also, the number of opportunities to perform. I didn’t have that many before joining Colburn.
When did you decide that you wanted to pursue music professionally?
It was a decision made over time. I have had experiences of performing for many people, including private intimate occasions, and the reactions that I got from them was something that I never experienced if not for music.
I learned that music could touch people’s hearts. Music is really a form of therapy. I really enjoy communicating with the audience through music. And so I felt I wanted to keep on doing that and trying to help other people.
Do you have any plans for what you want your musical career to look like?
I think I’m still deciding on that. It’s hard to decide on one thing because I like doing a lot of different things with music. Like I said, I want to be able to collaborate with other musicians.
I want to be a performer, but I think I really love chamber music, so I hope to continue that and also maybe some orchestra. So I’m still deciding, but I want to try to do a lot of different things with music.
What kind of impact do you want your music to have on your audience?
I really love listening to music myself on my own time and the feeling that I get from listening to it. It’s really therapeutic. And I think people can be very vulnerable when they’re listening to music.
I wish that when people listen to me perform that they can be open to themselves. I want to be able to have a connection between me and the audience. Whatever I feel when I listen to music, that’s what I want the audience to also feel.
What kinds of music do you like to play the most?
Well, I’ve experienced a lot of different genres over the years. My main focus at least for now is obviously classical music. But I’ve also had the opportunity to collaborate with other genres.
For instance, I once played with traditional Japanese musicians, koto and taiko players, in a Japanese theatrical musical. I got to collaborate with artists of different genres, modern dancers, Bali dancers, traditional Japanese dancers.
Also, since I was nine, I have collaborated with a performing artist. It’s a duo, in which I play the cello and the artist expresses with movements and live installation. I want to do more collaborations with different mediums of art.
How did you start playing piano?
It’s an interesting story. In first grade, my teacher gave a writing assignment, an essay. The prompt was, “Who do you want to be when you grow up?” And I wrote that I want to be a pianist and that I want my own piano. My teacher told my parents about this and they granted my wish and bought me a piano, so I started playing from first grade.
Why do you like the piano?
I find it an interesting instrument. I really like the sound quality. It’s very different from other instruments because it’s strings and it’s also percussion with the hammers. And I just generally think that it’s very musical. So, I prefer it over different instruments.
What kind of music do you most like to play?
I really love classical music, and I prefer it over many other genres. I think it’s very fascinating how composers from a very long time ago could create such incredible music that’s still listened to and loved to this day. It’s also interesting how classical music has shaped other musical genres, especially modern genres.
Do you have any favorite composers or genres within classical?
Personally, it’s difficult to decide on one or a few favorite composers; each composer is valuable and unique in their own way. I really like Beethoven and Bach, but I also really enjoyed playing the pieces of romantic era composers like Liszt and Rachmaninoff.
How has your Colburn experience been overall?
I really love Colburn. I feel like I’ve learned and grown a lot more since I came here. I’ve been taking piano lessons with Ms. Inga [Kapouler Gartner]. I also took theory and harmony lessons as well as chamber ensemble.
How do you think it helps you as a musician to play chamber?
It helps me a lot because you have to think musically when you’re playing with other musicians. Also, you have to agree on specific musical terms. All of that comes to one big composition and product that you can learn from to become a better musician.
How is the experience of playing with other musicians different than performing solo?
It’s different in many ways. For example, all the musicians have to have a good connection in order to create a good product. You need to agree on things such as articulation, cueing, dynamics, and a lot of other stuff that you don’t think about while performing solo. It’s also more difficult because you’re not only responsible for what you play, but you’re also responsible for the other musicians.
What is it like studying with your teacher?
Ms. Inga is very supportive, and she’s a really good mentor for me. I enjoy my classes with her. We learn a lot of stuff like musical and technical things, and also the general idea of music and how it should be played with specific composers. Also, I really love the way she explains and helps me understand the music.
You are a Herbert Zipper Scholar. What was it like applying for that and finding out that you got the scholarship?
I wasn’t really sure whether or not I would attend Colburn, but I was considering it. I was getting my concerto ready for a concert in my previous school. When I finished, I felt like I was ready to move and become a better pianist. So, I decided to apply for Colburn. At first, I didn’t know that the Herbert Zipper Scholarship existed. When I found out, I decided to apply for it. I was very excited when they called and said that I got the scholarship. I knew that this was the path I wanted to go with music.
You also recently won first prize in the 2021 International Music Competition “London” Grand Prize Virtuoso. How was it preparing for that?
Before I found out about the competition, I had my Beethoven Sonata in G major ready. My teacher told me that there’s this competition that she wants me to participate in. So, we worked hard and prepared for it together. Then I recorded my Beethoven at Colburn and we sent it in. A few weeks later, I got the results back saying that I got first place. The winner gets to play in the Royal Albert Hall in Elgar’s Room, and I’m very excited for that.
How was it different from going to a competition in person?
It’s a lot more difficult when it’s all virtual, you have to worry about microphone quality and video quality. This is why I prefer going in-person, because I personally find it easier to project my emotions and to feel free while playing that way without worrying about whether or not that got across in the recording.
Any ideas what you might want to do with music in the future?
I’m planning on becoming a pianist, and I’m focusing on finishing Colburn and high school right now. For my future goals, I want to get accepted to Juilliard music school and become a well-known concert pianist. But before that, I obviously need to participate in many different competitions and hopefully win. I’d really like to participate in the Van Cliburn competition in 2023. I know it’s going to be a challenge, but I love challenging myself.
When did you start dancing?
In first grade. I was part of my school’s musical theater productions, and that opened me up to jazz specifically. Then I started doing some musical theater productions in Pasadena, and then I found out about Colburn and that’s when I became much more serious about certain styles of dance.
Why did you start dancing?
I always found musical theater so exciting. It was a way that I could let out all my energy and not have to be contained. When I was really little, I’d always lip sync. Then I was actually able to get into musical theater and do [it] in real life while people are watching and listening.
As I’ve grown, I’ve seen how happy it makes people that watch it. So that just brings me to life even more, seeing people so engaged by this art form. Knowing that I’m making people feel things and connect is something that I find really beautiful. When it comes to musical theater, it just excites me inside, and I know it’s exciting others.
It must be a different experience now without that energy from in-person performances.
It’s definitely interesting to bring to life what you’re doing, but only see people on screen. I use my imagination when I’m doing it, and I can easily sort of feel myself enter the stage, but it’s definitely very odd because then you come back to reality. You’re like, “Oh, I’m the only person in this room, but I just have to work with what I got.”
But I really enjoy it when I get to work with somebody else and they split us into smaller groups. It’s still really lovely, and I feel so happy to be able to do it even in my room because even with technology, I’m still dancing and I’m still getting all that energy.
How did you decide what genre you wanted to focus on?
I’ve always been intrigued by the jazz world, I think because I grew up watching lots of musicals and I love Fosse technique. I was always so jazzed up about it when I watched it. That style just feels the most exploratory and intriguing to me.
So that’s what I like the most, but I definitely believe in taking ballet classes. I think that’s a great grounding to your style. Like I said, I’ve gotten more interested in tap with Ms. Denise [Scheerer] and that has opened me up to a whole new world of expression with rhythm.
What has it been like getting more serious about tap, especially over Zoom?
It’s really funny because I started when we were in-person, and it was really great to hear everybody at the same time, especially with something like tap where it’s all sound. Being in a room full of people made it really nice to be able to hear one another and be able to make sure you were getting everything right.
But being at home and doing it virtually has been a very different experience. I’m definitely able to learn because Ms. Denise is there and she’s doing it, but it’s just a different experience to not hear other people with you while you’re performing.
I always have to remind myself to look up and perform, instead of looking down because the computer screen’s down at my feet. You can normally use your peripheral vision and look at people next to you, but now you’re looking down at a screen.
I definitely feel that I go into my own zone when I’m tapping by myself, which can be really therapeutic. I know what I’m getting wrong because I can hear it. It’s very meditative too.
You recently recorded something for Sweets from the Nutcracker. What was it like working on that?
It was really interesting. I was able to set up a whole space when I did tap in my living room, and I had my dad film it. I had my earbuds in, so it was really bizarre to not be able to hear other people while performing. I was still able to hear the music, but it was odd.
I wouldn’t love to do it for years and years and years. I much prefer being in-person, but it was nice to see the end product and know that we all did this and we all had to go through this together, but that we were still able to bring something beautiful and show people.
Before The Nutcracker, you also worked on the Musical Theater video from last summer. How was that?
We did “The New World” from Songs for a New World. It was the same sort of idea that we did with Sweets from The Nutcracker. We each individually recorded pieces, but we got to be a lot more experimental with it. We did these outtake ideas where you are looking out a window or lip syncing. That was something that I think brought a whole new level to the sort of film that we made. It was really lovely because you got to see so many people doing their own thing in the final result.
It feels very individualized and personal to be in class practicing and to do your own recording. But when all the pieces are brought together, and I got to see that final product with the music and with all of us singing, it was really, really heartfelt, especially because we don’t get to have that so much now. I was so happy when I saw the final result.
What have you learned from dancing at Colburn in general?
What’s really great about Ms. Denise is that she’s had so much experience and because of that can choreograph really, really well; everything she’s choreographed for us has been really awesome.
I haven’t had much experience outside of Colburn, but I can’t imagine it being any better than it is. It’s been very prestigious, and I’ve been able to really get challenged in ways that I wasn’t in other places. I’ve been able to get to a higher level and go to classes that are for people older than me, like being in Musical Theater for High School and not even being in high school. I’ve been able to grow and excel in dance and just learn so quickly and have these teachers that are just so excited for me to keep learning and to keep challenging myself.
Micah Miko-Levine Performs "The New World" in Musical Theater Summer Workshop 2020