Notable Neighbors: Rayan and Zaydan Ahmad & Ravenna Michalsen

“The world of reality has its bounds,

the world of imagination is boundless.”

John-Jacques Rousseau

Composing isn’t something reserved for an elite few. When students go to school, they learn to read and write. It is just as important for music students to take what they are learning and use it to create their own voice through compositions of their own. As their knowledge grows, so does their composing palette! It is their story to tell.

Mary Bloom

Director of Music Education


Rayan and Zaydan Ahmad don’t just like to learn new pieces of music: they also like to compose their own.

Rayan, age nine, and Zaydan, age seven, have both studied piano at NMS for three years. Rayan first studied with Adam Matlock, and now both boys study with Frances Taylor.

The family first joined the NMS community when Zaydan was in the Preschool & Toddler Program, with teachers Denise Nutile and Vandana Kant. Zaydan still remembers being in the arts-integrated program for young children, noting that “playing with my friends at preschool” has been one of his favorite NMS experiences.

The brothers’ early introduction to the arts has set them on a path of great creativity. Today, they compose, sing, and play several instruments.

“The boys are very musical and love to tinker, play, and learn new songs on their own, or make up their own songs,” said their mother, Treeny Ahmed. “Especially this summer when all travel was cancelled, they spent a lot of time at the piano, messing around.”

Rayan, who has performed original compositions in his last three recitals, was recently featured in The Patch. Here, you can watch him perform an original work titled “A Dream.”

Zaydan also enjoys creating his own music. Below, please enjoy “Graveyard,” which he wrote for Halloween.

The boys also love to sing while at the piano. In this video, Rayan performs Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing” (keep an eye out for a brief appearance by Zaydan!).


Cellist Ravenna Michalsen is passionate about playing, studying, teaching, composing, and listening to music.

At NMS, Ravenna teaches cello and music theory, and she also coaches chamber music ensembles. She has released three albums of original music and is an active performer.

Ravenna is also the founder of Dignity Music, which provides free, live classical music concerts for the homeless and marginally homed persons of New Haven.

We invite you to meet Ravenna and learn more about her enthusiasm for teaching:

Here, Ravenna teaches a mini-lesson on vibrato for the cello, though all musicians will benefit from this helpful and important lesson: