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As a pianist, Kunal Lahiry spends a significant amount of time practicing and performing independently, but he says one of the most valuable skills he learned in the AYWS was learning how to play with others.

“Having to follow a conductor was a big challenge and induced a lot of stress at times, but it forced me to prepare in advance and be even more secure with my part so I could focus my energy on listening to the ensemble,” he says. “Now that I’m dedicating more of my time to collaborating with singers, these skills I've been honing since I was 14 are paying off. “

Kunal, who has a bachelor’s degree in piano performance from McGill University, is currently pursuing a master’s degree in vocal piano accompaniment from Hochschule für Musik "Hanns Eisler" in Berlin, Germany. Since his time as an AYWS member, he has acquired a plethora of musical accolades, including winning the Brevard Music Center piano competition and placing second in the XXVI Flame competition in Paris. He will soon make his solo concert debut in Paris at l'Eglise américaine at the end of October 2016.

The four-year AYWS veteran says his experience in the ensemble was life changing. “For me, the AYWS opened up a network of people in Atlanta who were just like me,” he explains. “It was such a driven environment—everybody was pushing themselves, not just with music but also academics and sports. Everyone had big aspirations.

AYWS motivated me to work harder so that I could feel worthy of being in such an ensemble.”

Kunal says his favorite AYWS memory occurred his first year in the ensemble when he performed at the Midwest Conference in Chicago. He truly got to know his fellow musicians, and says it was the first time he had met such interesting, passionate, and ambitious people his own age. “It was really encouraging and inspiring,” he says.  
 
For Kunal, music is simply everything. “Sharing what I find so special about music with others is exciting and deeply touching,” he says. The AYWS afforded him many opportunities to do just that, and he continues to build upon those experiences in his musical studies today.