Bedford Public Schools Black Excellence Series: Natalie Lewis, BHS Class of 2017

This is a portion of the weekly Superintendent’s Update by Cliff Chuang mailed to Bedford Public School community on Friday, March 29. Please find this week’s full issue of Superintendent’s Update and back issues at bedfordps.org.

Note: This is the final entry in the series of columns highlighting the stories of BPS alums, taking us into and out of Black History Month in February, highlighted on this BPS Black Excellence Site put together by Lisa Morrison, JGMS STEM teacher.

Natalie Lewis, Class of 2017

My name is Natalie Lewis and I graduated from Bedford High School in 2017. I was a Hanscom kid, moving from Severna Park, MD to Bedford in the summer of 2015. This move was very hard for me as I had lived in Maryland for five years – the longest I had lived anywhere, and really felt like I had found a home. So moving completely uprooted my sense of stability, and truthfully, my sense of self.

Luckily, the music and theater department at BHS took me in with open arms and made me feel like I had been at BHS all four years. I fondly remember signing myself up for honors choir, not understanding it was an auditioned group, having Ms. Faultich email me about auditioning and being TERRIFIED. But I had nothing to be afraid of – the audition went great, and I think that meeting set the stage (literally) for what was to come.

My two years at BHS were full of many wonderful opportunities given to me by the music department, maybe the most important being my roles in the musicals.

For the first time, I was given leading opportunities in the school musicals and these opportunities, along with the support of the music faculty, encouraged me to pursue music in college. I also participated in the a cappella groups, both Bellachords and the Rolling Tones, the latter of which I became music director of during my senior year.

I competed in the Tenacity competition both of my years, and my team placed second overall in my senior year.

Along with Ms. Faulstich, many faculty members at BHS were influential in my success, and they weren’t all music faculty. Mr. Felker gave me singing opportunities in the Jazz Band where I also played baritone saxophone. I was a part of the Art Club, headed by Mr. Hagemen. There was Ms. Kane, who I love and adore and MISS, Ms. Faulkner and Ms. Margolis and Mr. Dechellis and Mr. Zellner! I am missing some, I’m sure, and maybe all of these teachers don’t work at BHS, but they were all invaluable to me during my time at BHS.

After BHS came UMass Amherst, where I found my love for classical singing and opera. During my senior year, I decided I wanted to continue my training and get a masters degree before going out into the big wide world. I chose to dream big and applied to Juilliard and Yale as well as two other schools for my masters. I was accepted into both Yale and Juilliard and seeing that I had received a full ride to both, my decision became hard.

I found a teacher I loved at Yale, but the reputation and access I knew Juilliard had, especially in the classical world was something I couldn’t pass up.

My first year was one of the hardest years of my life. Adjusting to conservatory-style learning coming from a liberal arts school was more of a challenge than I had originally thought and in all honesty, I almost dropped out.

Most of my days were full of tears, exhaustion, insecurity, and just general unhappiness. I found solace in my friends and family and made it to the end of my first year. That summer, I had a very formative musical experience, the first overwhelmingly positive one that I had had in a long time, and it reminded me of why I love this art form.

This year has been much more successful than last, and I am now about to graduate from Juilliard with my Masters in Music.

This year, so many opportunities have come to me and I’ve been able to take them and learn and grow with them. I placed first in Houston Grand Opera’s Concert of Aria Competition, I am a semi-finalist in the Metropolitan Opera’s Laffont Competition, I had the opportunity to work with Grammy award-winning musician Rhiannon Giddens, and this fall, I will be joining the opera studio of the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich, Germany!

It’s taken a lot of work, support, and truthfully luck to get here and I couldn’t be more thankful for the life I get to live!

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