Utsav Lal, Contemporary Musical Arts


What was your first impression of NEC? How has that changed since you’ve been here?

I applied here for undergrad but ended up going elsewhere. I knew I’d come here at some point, though. I had friends in Delhi and Ireland who had gone here and it seemed like the most open conservatory for the kind of music I was interested in.

Tell me about your musical backstory…what got you to where you are today?

I started playing Indian classical music on the piano and then learned Western classical and jazz music in Ireland. I did my undergrad in Scotland and I learned some Celtic folk music there. I kept up with the Indian music on my own. NEC was the perfect breeding ground for folk, classical, and jazz and really made the most of all my diverse backgrounds. I got my own personal voice; they didn’t put me in a box. It was really me playing, not just me playing in a particular style.

What is the best thing about life as a CI major?

I love how open and malleable the courses are. Every one of my classes can be related to the music I want to be making outside of school. There are no classes I’m forced to take. Instead, they say “What kind of music do you want to make? Here are the resources we can provide you and here’s what we think you should take.”

Who has been your favorite teacher? Why?

Anthony Coleman is great. Warren Senders is a musical education teacher and only teaches one course every now and then, but he is the greatest teacher I’ve ever encountered. I would take an unrelated class just to be around these teachers.

What makes NEC unique? Why did you choose here over other schools?

NEC was the only place that let me focus on the music I wanted to make after undergrad. At NEC, music is so subjective, at the end of the day you can take inspiration from absolutely anything. The CI program is also really great. I like that you can take classes from any department regardless of your major and go out and explore.

What is the biggest challenge you’re proud to have overcome here?

I didn’t know much about the theory of music. I always learned by ear or reading and struggled with theory. But this last semester, with the help of a lot of teachers, I’ve been shown all the ways theory is relevant to and useful for the music I’m making.

What advice would you give to incoming students?

Explore as much of NEC and all the departments as you can. There are so many incredible teachers hidden everywhere. Vocal pedagogy was one of the best courses I’ve ever taken. Don’t come here narrow-minded, collaborate as much as you can!

I got my own personal voice; they didn’t put me in a box. It was really me playing...
Utsav Lal'18 MM Contemporary Improvisation