UCLA is home to new musicians

Through their love for performing, some incoming students know that music is in their future

DAILY BRUIN--Updated: September 23, 2010, 2:04 AM

First-year student Kendall Fisher plans to study cello in addition to psychology during her time at UCLA. She has played the cello since the age of 4. (Photo courtesy of Diana Badong)


There are some students who already know exactly what they want to do as they enter UCLA this fall, and no, they’re not just pre-medical students.

Instead, these are students majoring in music who plan on becoming professional full-time musicians. Besides filling out the obligatory UC form, their applications included a supplemental application and then a subsequent audition round in order to gain entry into highly competitive programs that often have only a handful of open spots.

UCLA is an attractive school for music students because of its diversity and because of recent developments in its music department.

“We’ve changed a lot over the past couple of years,” said Antonio Lysy, who heads the cello studio. “We became the Herb Alpert School of Music, which drove everyone to change their ideas about curriculum and gave us the opportunity to offer more scholarships,” Lysy said.

With extra funding during these fiscal times, UCLA became more competitive among music students, Lysy said. One such student is Kendall Fisher, an incoming first year who will study cello with the aspiration of becoming a professional cellist. She earned one of the five open spots in the program this year.

“I wanted a university environment, I didn’t want to go to a conservatory,” Fisher said. “The fact that there are other things around me in such a diverse environment is a nice thing to have.”

Although cello will be her main focus, Fisher is already thinking of studying psychology as well.

From the age of 4, Fisher had already begun to play cello, although it was her sister’s influence which led to her interest in the instrument.

“My sister, who’s eight years older than me, was playing the cello. When I was younger, I would get my toys and pretend to play cello when she was practicing, so my mom let me start lessons,” Fisher said.

Her schedule differs greatly from that of other students, with music theory classes and lessons in orchestra and chamber music comprising much of her day.

“There’s just a bit of room left over for GEs,” Fisher said.

Another studio in the music department which has accepted new students is voice, headed by Vladimir Chernov.

“My personal method is very focused on vocal technique. Basically I am teaching to my students a technical approach on how they are going to produce specific sounds based on a number of different exercises,” Chernov said.

This year, the voice program accepted approximately 17 new students, Chernov said.

“The quality of voices this year is better than it was three or four years ago,” Chernov said. “Obviously it is our goal to attract the best voices, and the United States is a big country.

But I think our program is becoming more well-known, it is a very young program, but we try to give (students) the necessary instruments to give them a full program.”

Among this year’s group is incoming freshman Jeff Fichtner, who may also double major in physics.

“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go to college for voice or math and science, I have an almost equally shared passion for both,” Fichtner said. “I wouldn’t necessarily use a physics degree, but it would be indulging in something I’m interested in.”

Although variable for now, his projected career path centers around music.

“After four years at UCLA, I want to audition in major companies, develop a steady opera career, and determine how many years of education I need after that,” Fichtner said.

Some new students in the voice program are also graduate students, whose path in music has become more concrete.

“What keeps me coming back for more is that you can really touch people with this music,” said first-year graduate student Ryan Thorn.

His first experience with the effect of vocal music was in high school, performing with a subset of the orchestra.

“We would go around tables and play, but at a certain point we would surprise the heck out of people by taking a knee next to someone, putting an arm around them and singing a cheesy love song,” Thorn said.

He was struck by the appreciation of the audience.

“Their eyes would go wide and some people would have tears in their eyes, just because someone was singing to them,” Thorn said. “There’s a personal, immediate connection in singing, especially classical. There’s no amplification, no mic, nothing between that person and you.”

The freedom of expression and the gratification that comes with performance is much of what brings these young musicians to dedicate their lives to music.

“I love the way it feels to play cello. To be able to express yourself through music is a great feeling,” Fisher said.

The feeling was mutual for Thorn.

“It’s something I can push myself to and aspire to be, I’ve just always enjoyed it,” Thorn said. “There’s no disconnect between my work life and my hobby. I’m doing what I love for hours a day, and it never feels like drudgery.”


Jeff Fichtner will be entering UCLA as a first-year music student. He will be studying voice and is considering a double major in physics. (Photo courtesy of Nancy Fichtner)