Lal Besir, 15, is in the Community School Concert Choir under the direction of Adrian Dunn. Lal is also studying Music Theory, takes voice lessons with Michael Stevens, and is a Herbert Zipper Scholar.
This interview has been lightly edited for style, content, and clarity.
How did you start singing?
I’ve been singing pretty much all of my life. When I was younger, I was really extroverted. I would sing in front of people and I would do concerts. I started taking voice lessons with Debbie Lewis when I was doing a lot of musical theater. I sang with 5-Star Theatricals, and I would do theater productions with them as well as perform in their kids’ program. I fell in love with performing; I was obsessed! I just continued doing it and I wanted to grow. I discovered classical opera when I started studying at the Colburn Community School of Performing Arts.
What music do you like to sing?
I love singing classical opera. I’ve kind of stopped with my musical theater singing, but classical music—I love arias. I perform masses with my choir each year during school. I love anything in a higher range, anything challenging.
Has there been a composer that’s found a place in your heart?
Bach, Schubert—I’m working on a piece by him—Bach’s Ave Maria is gorgeous too. And just for fun, Taylor Swift, a hundred percent.
You’ve sung in all kinds of groups; do you have a preference of singing in groups or alone?
I love the harmonizing of a choir. I love how that can sound and give you goosebumps. I think that’s amazing. But I love singing individually because I feel [that enables] you to improve your own technique and figure out what you enjoy. Singing is just really important to me.
Would you talk a little bit about how you came to Colburn?
I believe I started two years ago in 2020. Jim Walker is friends with my dad, who’s a musician and a composer. Jim is a flutist, and he teaches at Colburn and recommended that I begin this journey, and I’m really grateful for that.
How has your experience been here at Colburn?
It’s amazing. I have the best teachers, and from every lesson, I’m improving. I’ve joined the Colburn Concert Choir here too. The people are really nice—everyone sounds amazing and there’s so much talent surrounding me. I just want to keep growing with them.
Would you talk about what it’s like studying with each of your teachers?
Michael Stevens is my vocal teacher; I love him so much. I think he’s one of my favorite teachers just in general, including school, and he is just so diverse and knows so much. He’s so fun, and he makes me want to keep improving. He’s just a really great teacher. I started studying music theory with Kathy Sawada in 2022, and it feels so good to get her satisfaction—I care about her opinion so much. I’m always wanting to impress her. She’s really sweet too. And then Adrian Dunn the Choral Director is just so fun! Everybody loves him and I love him. He is really upbeat, and he includes everybody. He treats his class like a college-level course. We can just speak out loud, and so it’s so interesting.
Is there anything you’re really looking forward to?
I’m really looking forward to improving with my music theory, and singing-wise, improving my technique because my voice is changing. I really want to figure out my favorite genres, as well as what I enjoy singing to start building my repertoire a bit more. I definitely want to perform at the Friday Night Recitals.
What do you hope for your musical future?
I would really like to continue singing classical opera and continue improving my technique. I would like to continue studying [voice] in college, maybe Colburn, maybe Juilliard. And then I want to start entering competitions. I really want to begin doing more performances because that was hard to do at times during COVID. So this year I want to focus on performing. My dad and I were thinking about making something—recording covers of pieces, making an album—for college, but it would also just be for us.
The Herbert Zipper Scholars program offers highly motivated, deserving students the opportunity to engage in comprehensive music education at Colburn, one of the nation’s premier arts organizations. Herbert Zipper Scholars receive instruction in music theory, private lessons, and ensemble participation, among many other academic and performance opportunities.