Commencement Speakers Reflect on Community and Opportunity at Colburn

Bachelor of Music candidate Lucy Wang and Artist Diploma candidate Joachim Becerra Thomsen

After a hectic month of recitals, juries, orchestra rehearsals, and finals, the end of the semester for Conservatory students has finally arrived. Tomorrow’s Commencement ceremony not only marks the last day of the year, but also the final goalpost for many students receiving their degrees. While some will continue their musical education at Colburn in the fall, others will say goodbye.

“The Colburn experience is very intense, and intense in a good way, I think,” reflects Joachim Becerra Thomsen, this year’s graduate student speaker and one such student who will depart from Colburn, while enjoying the bright Los Angeles sunshine on the Colburn plaza. “There’s so much music going on, and you’re a part of so many concerts and different things with music, but you also develop some really close friendships here.”

Living, rehearsing, performing, and socializing with the same people breeds a tight-knit community. When it comes time to leave that environment, as Joachim will after this week when he returns to his native country of Denmark, it can feel bittersweet. For others, like undergraduate student speaker Lucy Wang, who will return to Colburn in the fall to pursue her master’s degree, it means that she is just getting started.

“The last four years passed by really quickly for me,” she recalls. “Over the past two years, I think I really started to get settled in. I’m staying mainly for my string quartet. I want to keep playing with them. I’ve gotten to develop really close relationships with my teacher, and my different coaches and my friends, so by staying here I can continue that.”

The two students agree that the connections they have made with the entire Colburn community—peers, teachers, and guest artists—are a key part of their experience here. “At least for myself, I know the friendships I have made will continue long after I leave,” Joachim says. “I remember when I auditioned here and when I got here, there was such a big focus on the community part of the school. You feel like you’re a part of something—it’s not just a school, in a way.”

According to Joachim and Lucy, diversity is an important element of the community here. Since all Conservatory students receive full scholarships, people are able to apply and attend regardless of background. “Colburn is for everyone in the sense that it doesn’t matter where you’re from,” says Joachim. “It’s just what you play and who you are. Which is a very good thing. We have a completely multicultural thing here, people from all over the world.”

That multiculturalism benefits Joachim and Lucy not only practically, like in a game of Settlers of Catan when they are able to strategize with their teams in different languages, but also musically. “I think that cultural richness is really, really great, both for people personally and for us as musicians, because we have to grow as people before we grow as musicians. Just experiencing so many different things broadens your horizons,” Joachim explains.

But they are grateful for more than just the lack of student debt. “Not many people have the chance to be in an environment like this with the opportunities that we get, socially, musically, and professionally,” Joachim remarks. In particular, he and Lucy both appreciate how Colburn allows students to focus on their own interests.

“You don’t have to worry about money, or food. The teachers are so supportive. If you have something you want to do, you have the means to explore it and really pursue it,” explains Lucy. She’s put her energy into her quartet, the Viano String Quartet, which has competed and won prizes internationally. Most recently, they received third prize in this year’s Wigmore Hall International String Quartet Competition in London.

Joachim’s passion lies in the orchestra. “In my program, I don’t have any classes like Lucy, so I had time to focus on improving my playing and my skills for orchestra auditions, while at the same time getting experience playing in the orchestra.” After having served as principal flute for LA Chamber Orchestra since the beginning of last year, he will return to Copenhagen to an associate principal flute position in the Danish National Symphony.

As Lucy reflects on her undergraduate experience, it is clear that the next three years will only bring more growth. “I think my first two years I was kind of like, oh I’m not going to do this or this, I’m going to stick with the people I know. But in the past year, I actually took advantage of the career development office and the wellness program. There’s a lot that Colburn has to offer, and I’m super thankful.”