Lily Kutner on stage in "Seussical" at North Fork Community Theatre last summer. Courtesy photo

Consider yourself lucky if you call Lily Kutner’s cell phone and she’s unavailable, because then you’ll hear her lovely voice singing a bit of a Little Mix song:

“Hey, how ya doing
Sorry you can’t get through
Leave you name and number
And I’ll get back to you.”

The musical greeting tells you a lot about the 17-year-old Riverhead High School junior’s personality and passion: singing. She’s been involved in musical theater since second grade. And family videos chronicle her entertaining family and friends as young as age two, singing the Star Spangled Banner.

Now her native talent and the hard work of years of lessons have paid off for Lily. The young vocalist has been accepted to the prestigious Boston University’s Tanglewood Institute’s music program this summer. Tanglewood is a highly regarded six-week program that accepts students from all over the world. Lily was one of only 18 mezzo-sopranos chosen to participate.

Kelley Nassief, her private voice teacher, encouraged her to apply — a process that involved submitting videos of her singing “Serenata Gitana” by Miguel Sandoval — an opera piece — in German, and a “A Simple Song” by Leonard Bernstein.

“I’m so excited to be going,” Lily said. “I’ll be getting a better understanding of different styles of music while I’m there.”

Lily Kutner at the Teeny Awards last year

A smile lit up her face as she explained that she’ll study classical music more in depth and bring home some new techniques in choral singing that she’ll share with her high school music teacher Dina Tisham.

While she’s at Tanglewood she’ll get voice lessons, have choir practice every day and work on opera scenes with three to four other students several days a week. Lily is a mezzo-soprano who describes herself as able to sing both alto and soprano melodies. Her voice, she said, is “a belty voice — not refined.”

That comes from years of doing stage productions. She’s just turned 17 this month and estimates she been in at least 20 shows beginning as a second-grader. She’s performed with ACT Out East, the Riverhead Faculty and Community Theatre, North Fork Community Theatre, Kids for Kids Productions and Riverhead High School’s annual shows. She’s sung with the high school’s jazz band. She’ll be singing at Riverhead Little League’s opening day ceremonies this year. She’s been nominated for TEENY awards for The Crucible and for choreographing The Little Mermaid.

Lily wants to major in music education in college with the intent of teaching high school music and musical theater. She’s had a lot of experience working with kids, having volunteered at Camp Good Grief for many years, worked for the Southampton Youth Bureau and Riverhead Town’s summer recreation program, and recently was a conductor on the North Fork Trolley’s Polar Express ride.

Lily’s mother Shannon Kutner beamed with pride as she described a recent award that her daughter won.

“Lily also just won an award at a high school music competition in New York City called the Ovation Award. It is an award for a student who transcends the making of music in their school program,” she said. “She was chosen for this at this competition by the World Strides adjudicators after her teacher Dena Tishim submitted her recommendation. She was the only student to receive the award with about 1,000 students in attendance from nine schools from nine different states. The award represents the spirit of determination, inspiration and service to others according to World Strides.”

Attending Tanglewood is expensive. So Lily is organizing a fundraiser to help offset the costs of going. She and some friends will be giving a concert at the Vail Leavitt Music Hall on May 23 at 7 p.m. Tickets are available at the door. The suggested donation is $5 for children and $20 for adults.

We need your help.
Now more than ever, the survival of quality local journalism depends on your support. Our community faces unprecedented economic disruption, and the future of many small businesses are under threat, including our own. It takes time and resources to provide this service. We are a small family-owned operation, and we will do everything in our power to keep it going. But today more than ever before, we will depend on your support to continue. Support RiverheadLOCAL today. You rely on us to stay informed and we depend on you to make our work possible.

April Pokorny
April is a writer, reporter and copy editor for the LOCAL news websites. She is a retired educator and proud grandma. April lives in Calverton. Email April