The interview with Zeynep Lal Kara, Arif Mardin Fellowship’s First Virtual Awardee

1.How did you hear about the Arif Mardin Fellowship at Berklee? Did you know that The Society offered funding for Turkish artists to participate in the program?

When I was in 6th grade, I attended the 1 Week Summer Sessions Program at Berklee and I remember I had so much fun, but I was too young to attend the 5 Week Program so I was upset about it. Also, the fact that every single person I talked with in my class said that they were doing a 2 or 5 Week Program made me feel a little stayed out for no reason. Since then, I’d been researching about attending the 5 Week Program but I couldn’t apply until this year since I was still too young. I remember I’d been watching videos of performances, visiting artists and other students and just waiting to get old enough to apply. And eventually, when it was time to apply, of course we started researching about scholarships and other details of the program. We also heard some things from musicians that were around me back then so we decided to apply to the Arif Mardin Scholarship.


2. Due to Covid-19, Berklee’s program went online. Tell us a little about your virtual experience. How was the program?

I remember I was so frustrated when I learned that the program was going to be online. I waited for this for so long that it made me feel sad and I thought it was awful to think that I wouldn’t be able to experience the opportunities as much as I wanted to. However, when the program started, I realized that I was not missing that much. My teachers were just so understanding and helpful about everything and they were always there whenever I needed them. Also, the Musicianship and Music Theory classes were so much fun that actually for the first time in my life, I enjoyed those classes. I’ve been taking Music Theory and Musicianship classes at the conservatory since I was in second grade and I’ve never felt this confident about things I’ve learned, even though I was in the highest level classes in the Program, thanks to my result in the placement exams. The performance classes were also so much fun and interesting and actually much easier than I expected them to be. I’ve met awesome musicians and made new friends. I’m so glad that it went so well and not in the way I was afraid it would be.


3. How has your experience as an Arif Mardin Fellow impacted your work as a musician/artist?

 I can say that my performance skills improved throughout the program. I feel like I have become more confident in improvisation which I wasn’t really good at which I have never had to do before since I am a classical pianist. But this program has taught me a lot in different fields such as Music Theory and Musicianship classes. I also had so much fun in Pop/Rock Lab class which we learned how to improvise in a proper but fun way.


4.What’s next for you?

I am planning on getting a bachelor’s degree in piano from Juilliard in college, however, I still have a long way to go. To achieve this goal, I will be practicing a lot and in an efficient way just like I’ve been doing for the past 9-10 years. I will always keep what I have learned throughout the 5-Week Program in mind and I feel improved in lots of ways that I can’t even think of, thanks to my amazing teachers in this program, and also to the American Turkish Society for giving me this opportunity and the scholarship.