Cal State LA graduate shares passion for music
A singer and songwriter, the music major finds joy in performing.
By Maria Pogosyan | Cal State LA News Service
Silence fell over the choir room as Carly Lyman lifted her fingers off the piano keys.
She was nervous, having just shared her first original song with someone outside her family. But then she saw the tears welling in her friend’s eyes.
“The idea that you can connect with people through composition is just so powerful and so amazing to me,” Lyman says.
Six years and countless songs later, the 22-year-old North Hollywood resident graduated May 20 with a Bachelor of Music in Music, with an option in commercial music, composition and arranging track.
Lyman developed an early affinity for music while growing up with her family in Denver, Colorado. Her father’s vast collections of records, CDs and cassettes sparked her imagination as a child.
“I just ran around the house, jumping on the couch, playing air guitar,” Lyman recalls, laughing.
Her parents put her in guitar lessons, and voice classes soon followed. She found joy in playing her own music. She started competing in vocal competitions in eighth grade, often winning first place. She received a scholarship from the Thornton Arts, Sciences and Humanities Council Board of Directors for her performance in the Young Artists Festival in Thornton, Colorado.
The scholarship helped Lyman make the move to Los Angeles at 18 years old to enroll at Cal State LA. The intimate size of the program gave Lyman an opportunity to benefit from individualized interactions with her professors and classmates.
Lyman credits the support of professors like Steve Wight and Ross Levinson for teaching her how to make impactful music and become vulnerable onstage. Wight and Levinson made a point to introduce Lyman and other students to many opportunities, including the Cal State LA Commercial Music Ensemble, the 444s.
As the vocal section captain for the 444s, Lyman helped organize their weekly rehearsals. The group performed original music and covers at special concerts and university events, including National Humanities Advocacy Day, the Golden Eagle Film Festival and Valentine’s Day.
During her years at Cal State LA, Lyman bonded with her classmates who were also passionate about music. She rarely turned down an opportunity to help her peers with different projects, from completing a master's thesis to starting an independent band.
She sings background vocals in bands like Dennis Alvarez and the Rumors and KIA, and lead vocals for Funkberry Preserve, performing in venues around Los Angeles. KIA solely consists of Cal State LA students and alumni.
Lyman found other ways to connect with her community through music. For three years, she has taught music at The Dollmakers’ Kattywompus, a toy, gift and music store in Monrovia. She teaches piano, ukulele, guitar and voice lessons to children ages 6 to 9 years old and encourages them to explore different aspects of music.
A Dean’s List student, Lyman is part of the Honors College at Cal State LA. As a part of the program, she successfully presented her thesis, which consisted of original music and a research paper exploring the aspects of songwriting that make music memorable and impactful, such as melodic and lyrical motifs and different dynamic arrangements.
Lyman spends hours crafting lyrics and melodies for her songs and often still feels shy when it comes to performing in front of crowds. But at the same time, she loves to be onstage, to be present and connect with an audience.
In 2019, Lyman was awarded second place in the USA Songwriting Competition, the world’s leading international songwriting event, for her work co-writing a song. A recipient of a scholarship from the Honors College, she graduated with a 3.8 GPA.
Lyman plans to continue teaching music to the children at the toy and music store and writing songs to build up her catalog, so she can present her work to publishing companies.
“The fact that I feel confident enough to share my music with people definitely makes me feel like, ‘Yes, OK, you’re on your way,’” Lyman says.