Opera Singer Lester Lynch Returns To Elyria High With Music Lessons

Opera singer Lester Lynch works with choir students at Elyria High School.
Opera singer Lester Lynch works with choir students at Elyria High School. [Carrie Wise / ideastream]
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It’s been 33 years since Lester Lynch walked the halls of Elyria High School. But the professional opera singer feels right at home in the choir room.

“It’s 100 percent thrilling,” Lynch said about returning to his alma mater, where he worked with choir students on their songs and discussed his career this week.

As the a cappella choir rehearsed the Spanish song, “Esto Les Digo,” Lynch frequently jumped in with suggestions for the vowel sounds of words, like “porque.”

“No one’s poor here,” he said jokingly, guiding the vocalists on improvements.

One of the choir directors, Kalee Bondzio, said she appreciated Lynch telling the students, ‘No, do it again. No, it’s still not right.’

“That growth mindset and that you can always work harder, I think that’s been the most valuable lesson,” Bondzio said.

Lester Lynch works with choir students on vowel sounds during class Wednesday.

Lester Lynch works with choir students on vowel sounds during class Wednesday. [Carrie Wise / ideastream] 

In 1987, Lynch headed from Elyria High to Baldwin Wallace University. He went on to study at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston and the Juilliard School in New York. But, as Lynch told the students, adversity nearly ended his professional pursuits in music.

“I got to a certain point in my career, and people started pointing out to me that I was black,” he said. “They kept pointing it out over and over again, and so I hit kind of a ceiling.”

Moving to Europe helped his career, all of which Lynch said he couldn’t have dreamed of back in high school. 

“When I was in high school, really all I wanted to do was play the piano 24/7,” he said.

He now performs in operas around the country, including George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” next week with the Philadelphia Orchestra. He returned to Elyria High this week for a performance and workshops with students.

Lynch’s advice to the next generation of musicians: “Dream. Don’t take no for an answer. Don’t be afraid.”

Students in the a cappella choir listen to direction from Lester Lynch. 12th grader Tyjaon Grantham (wearing red shirt in back row) was interested in hearing about Lynch's experiences.

Students in the a cappella choir listen to direction from Lester Lynch. 12th grader Tyjaon Grantham (red shirt in back row) was interested in Lynch's advice about studying music in college. [Carrie Wise / ideastream]

12th grader Tyjaon Grantham said he’d like to pursue music in college and had studied up on Lynch recently. 

“I noticed he was on Spotify and listened to his music,” Grantham said. “I wish to have that fullness in my voice.”

10th grader Hailey Smith isn’t sure what role music might take in her life after high school, but said she left choir class feeling like she learned a lot from Lynch.

“It kind of gives me hope that, like, anybody, wherever you’re from, you’re able to be successful in music or what you want to do,” Smith said.

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