Lord took the time to come to the high school to observe a group practice before directing them in rehearsal, Kornbeck said. To get Venice High School students to UCLA to attend choir concerts, Lord “coordinated buses, hosts and greeters, and facilities at UCLA,” marveled the teacher in a letter expressing her gratitude. “And even after all of this, she is returning to Venice again.”
Lord leads students at Venice High School in an activity teaching vowel formation.
Through the outreach program, which runs on donations, Lord has brought her skills to 20 middle and high schools, most in the L.A. area. Recently, she extended her outreach to work with students at four schools in Arizona as well.
“We give them a vision of what is possible and then teach them hands-on how to accomplish it themselves,” Lord said of the musical skills she helps her students develop. Her students inspire her, she said, with their eagerness to participate and their dedication to choral performance.
Her mentor, Donald Neuen, a professor of choral conducting and director of choral activities at UCLA, called the feedback he’s received from teachers and students “unprecedented.” Many students and teachers found the UCLA visits some of the most exciting events of the school year, Neuen said.
“One high school student I worked with several months ago has attended every choral concert we’ve had at UCLA since, bringing family and friends with her,” Lord said.
Lord herself has plenty of experience in performance. She took a seven- year break after receiving her bachelor of music to work as a professional actress, violinist and singer in New York City and across the country.
“But I kept returning to the idea of conducting,” said Lord. “Don Neuen was the one person I wanted to study with. He is legendary, internationally renowned and arguably the greatest conductor and pedagogue of his generation.”
Back in college as Neuen’s graduate student, Lord earned her master’s and doctorate degrees at UCLA. She then decided to stay on to spearhead the outreach program that Neuen wanted to develop.
“She’s an energetic, enthusiastic, highly gifted conductor who motivates both the UCLA students and the children in the public
Donald Neuen, director of choral activities at UCLA, conducts the chorale in a performance for visiting Manhattan Beach Middle School students.
schools to do greater things in the arts than they ever thought of doing,” Neuen said.
Next year, Lord and Neuen are hoping to double the impact of the program by reaching 6,000 students. But to make that happen, they’ll have to raise $40,000 to cover next year’s operating costs.
Donations from individuals and companies have helped propel their fundraising campaign. Just last month, the outreach program won the “Students with Drive” prize from Zipcar and Ford, both of which together contributed a total of $25,000.
Fundraising is hard work, but worth it in order to expand UCLA choral outreach efforts.
“We hope to keep this program going strong,” said Lord, “and continue to foster the relationships we have and build new ones, providing instruction and inspiration to a future generation of musicians and music lovers.”