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PROFILE: Special Music School Vocalist Kiana Lilly


15-year-old Kiana Lilly is having a really good spring so far. The talented 10th grader, a Harlem resident and vocal major at Special Music School High School, recently won SMS High School’s first ever Concerto Competition and, on May 6, performed as a finalist in the WQXR’s Classical Moonlighters Competition Grand Finals Concert in front of a panel of celebrity judges at the Greene Space. (Click here to watch.)

How does Kiana explain her success? “I couldn’t have done it without Lisa Tamagini,” she says of her voice teacher at SMS. Kiana first discovered her talent in 6th grade, when a teacher suggested that she join the school’s choir, and has honed her craft at SMS High School over the last two years. She plans to become a professional singer and aspires to one day perform at the Metropolitan Opera like her idol, Renée Fleming.

“Acting is pretending to be someone else,” she says, explaining her passion for music, “but singing is me being myself. I get to fully express and connect with the emotion of the song.” At SMS she’s learned to breathe and control her nerves, although she’s found that a little bit of nervousness helps her performance. She especially likes Strauss, whose vocal music fits her voice especially well.

Kiana loves the supportive atmosphere at SMS High School almost as much as the music, which includes private lessons, ensembles, sight-singing and music theory. “Here you get music and friendship,” says Kiana. The principal and the teachers know each and every person’s name. “The personal relationships here, and the wonderful music, help you as a performer grow and become more confident.”