Student Spotlight: Bahar Badieitabar

The composition and performance major talks about her journey to Berklee from Iran, composing on the oud, and how she finds inspiration in the traditional and folkloric music of her home country.

June 6, 2023

What’s it like to study at Berklee? Our Student Spotlight series asks current students all about their Berklee experience—what they’re learning in class, what kinds of projects they’re involved in onstage or behind the scenes, how they recharge, and of course, what they’re listening to. This week, get to know Bahar Badieitabar, an eighth-semester oud player from Tehran, Iran, dual majoring in composition and performance.

Follow Bahar on Instagram and Facebook.

Tell us about your path to Berklee. What made you decide to come here?

My journey to Berklee was a challenging yet rewarding experience, filled with many highs and lows. As an Iranian student there were numerous obstacles in my path. Auditioning for Berklee, interviewing, and obtaining a U.S. student visa in a third country was a challenging and lengthy process that continues to this day.

I was keen on coming to Berklee to collaborate with incredible artists, expand my musicianship, and learn valuable skills that can make me a more independent artist. The prospect of being recognized as both a performer and a composer was deeply important to me, and I am grateful to have embarked on this path at Berklee.

What's been your favorite class so far, and what has it taught you?

During my time at Berklee, I have had many classes I have learned from, but one that stands out to me most is the Mixed World Ensemble, directed by Alain Mallet. Alain is an amazing musician and director who selects unique and highly skilled musicians to be a part of the ensemble. The focus is on creating original compositions that contour jazz with more contemporary and diverse approaches, drawing inspiration from various traditional musical backgrounds from around the world. Our collective experience of workshopping the pieces in a group was unique. We pushed ourselves to move beyond conventional choices in terms of ensemble performance and tackled the challenges of handling large instrumentation, ultimately leading to an enriching and creative process.

Watch Badieitabar perform an original song and a cover in her episode of Berklee's Two Track series:

What's a project you've worked on since coming to Berklee that you've been especially excited about?

While at Berklee, I had the privilege of collaborating with numerous amazing Berklee students, with whom I explored and developed new sounds and colors. Since the oud is not as common of an instrument, I was motivated to compose more extensively, seeking opportunities to play the oud with a diverse range of individuals. Some of my compositions were inspired by class assignments or the skills I learned during my studies.

Last summer, I had the incredible opportunity to record an entire album with a couple of remarkable Berklee students. I composed all the pieces in this project and contributed by playing the oud. However, owing to my busy schedule during the past two semesters, I am yet to release it, but I plan to do so soon! This album holds significant meaning for me, as it will be my first artistic statement and showcases the potential of the oud in a contemporary context.

Also, I had the incredible privilege of sharing the stage with the renowned pianist and Grammy Award–winning composer Danilo Pérez. I am honored to be part of his recent project as a Global Messengers member. Words fail to convey the depth of my gratitude, honor, and excitement for this opportunity.

How do you typically recharge or find new ideas outside of class?

I feel deeply connected to Iranian art and culture. I’ve always drawn immense inspiration from the beauty of Iranian classical and folkloric music, with its use of the oud as one of the main instruments. For me, this music is not just a part of my heritage; it’s an integral part of my artistic vision and a powerful source of joy. By immersing myself in the richness of Iranian culture and reflecting on its daily happenings, I can tap into the creative flow and generate new ideas for my art.

When you think towards your own future, who inspires you most?

One of the most significant inspirations in my journey thus far has been my oud mentor back home, Siavash Roshan. His exceptional talent as an oud player and composer has profoundly impacted me. Through our interactions, I have gained invaluable insights not only into music but also into the essence of being an artist and a compassionate human being. Siavash first encouraged me to embrace composition and see myself as a performer-composer. His unwavering support even urged me to audition for Berklee, a pivotal moment I will always cherish. Siavash's visionary approach and proficiency in both playing and composing have always fascinated me. His unique artistry and humble, open-minded nature constantly push the boundaries of creativity and inspire me to explore new ideas. Siavash Roshan's journey is a guiding light on my musical and life path, a constant reminder of the transformative power of his mentorship.

What's one piece of advice you'd give to your high school self?

If I were to offer advice to my younger self, it would be to embrace patience and recognize that progress is not always linear. I would encourage myself to trust my efforts and find joy in the journey, rather than become overly fixated on the result. This is a lesson I continue to remind myself of even now and will carry with me into the future—that things will flourish when the time is right.

Bahar's Current Favorite Songs

We asked Bahar to share five songs that she's currently inspired by. Here's what she said:

1. "Torkaman," Hossein Alizadeh

One of my favorite pieces is "Torkaman" by Hossein Alizadeh. Alizadeh, a renowned composer and master of the setar and tar, has made remarkable contributions to Iranian classical and folkloric music, making it difficult to encapsulate his artistry in a few words. In this composition, he celebrates the beauty and essence of the Turkmen people through his mesmerizing setar performance. This piece holds a special place in my heart, resonating with me wherever I go.

2. “Saman Booyan,” Mohammadreza Shajarian

“Saman Booyan,” another beautiful composition by Hossein Alizadeh, is an art song sung by Mohammadreza Shajarian in an Iranian classical mode called Rast Panjgah based on a beautiful poem by Hafez.

3. "Starlings," Vijay Iyer Trio

"Starlings" by Vijay Iyer is an utterly captivating piece that compels me to listen to it repeatedly. The simple motive that repeats throughout the composition is masterfully executed, creating a mesmerizing effect with each iteration. Towards the end of the piece, there is a repetition of a single note in a high piano register, accompanied by the lower register and the bass notes of double bass. Altogether, it generates a unique sound palette that beckons me to immerse myself in its beauty.

4. "Shifting Sands," Dave Holland Quintet

"Shifting Sands" by Dave Holland is another piece I keep listening to. I love Dave Holland's compositions and bass playing. What fascinates me is how the chord progression consistently lands on different beats, creating unexpected accents that mirror the feeling of shifting sands beneath your feet.

5. "Fantasy," Siavash Roshan

The final piece I would like to highlight is "Fantasy" by Siavash Roshan. Given my previous description of his mastery, I would simply like to invite you to listen to his masterpiece.

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