Rebecca Lord, who began playing violin at the age of 2, seemed destined for a career in music. However, Lord, an alumna of the Herb Albert School of Music’s doctorate program, said she was initially interested in becoming an actress or singer.
“I’ve been singing my whole life. I started voice lessons when I was 11, and I’ve also been a professional actress. I always wanted to be involved in the performing arts or musical theater,” Lord said.
As a professional child actress, Lord said she chose to leave public school and become home-schooled to accommodate her schedule.
It was not until she attended Georgia State University to receive her bachelor’s degree in music that her undergraduate professor and choir conductor, Alan Raines, encouraged her to pursue conducting. Lord said she enjoyed it so much that she went to grad school at UCLA to study conducting, eventually receiving her master’s and doctorate degrees in the subject.
A trained vocalist and violinist, she has also dabbled in the viola, flute, piano and ukulele. In her time at UCLA, Lord conducted many orchestral and choral performance groups at UCLA, including the UCLA University Chorus, UCLA Chamber Singers, UCLA Chorale, UCLA Philharmonia and UCLA Symphony.
Lord’s mentor at UCLA was Professor Donald Neuen, a renowned choral and orchestral director who helped launch and develop the choral program at UCLA.
According to Neuen, who oversaw Lord while she worked toward her graduate degrees, Lord was an outstanding student.
“She’s incredibly brilliant, mature far beyond her years, works harder than anyone else and (is) multi-talented,” Neuen said.
While Lord said a heavy course load and sleep deprivation were the only costs of completing her degrees so quickly, Neuen said she is an incredibly motivating and inspirational teacher as well.
“Because she’s a professional singer and violinist, she’s solid in the techniques that she must teach in order for the ensemble to perform well,” Neuen said.
Neuen said that teaching a chorus is a much more difficult job than conducting an orchestra because there are only four categories of the human voice: soprano, alto, tenor and baritone.
“Chorus is dealing with singers and teaching them how to sing technically … and inspiring them to come outside of themselves and freely sing. It’s different and more difficult than conducting an orchestra, where they already know how to use their instruments, which is not a (physical part of their body),” Neuen said.
In June, Lord organized a surprise tribute to Neuen at Royce Hall in honor of his 50th year of teaching. Lord raised more than $12,000 to fund the event, which came from many musicians and conductors around the world who support Neuen’s work as a conductor and professor. Over the course of 10 weeks, Lord was able to rally the UCLA choirs and orchestra players to plan the event and solicit donations from Neuen’s colleagues, friends and family, all without his knowledge.
Wilson Lau, a third-year psychology student who took a choral music class taught by Lord, participated in the tribute concert for Donald Neuen and said she saw Lord’s efforts as a testament to how thoughtful she is.
Lau also said Lord was a particularly good teacher because she really focused on the details of the various songs they performed.
“She’ll create certain dynamics to improve the musical artistry of a piece,” Lau said.
This summer, Lord was selected to be one of five conductors to attend the Atlantic Music Festival, held in Maine for four weeks. While she is there, she will continue to work with chamber orchestras and receive private lessons on conducting in order to perform a concert with all five conductors.
Lord is now in the middle of the application process for the festival, after which she said she wants to find a position as a teaching assistant or as an assistant conductor.
“I love the joy of making progress and making beautiful music that impacts lives (of the performers) and the people who listen to it,” Lord said.