I'm happy to welcome you to my new space, where I intend to keep up with regular updates, including blog posts.
The year thus far has been one of my busiest professionally, and extremely satisfying. Thanks to a major project grant I received from The Pew Center for Arts and Heritage, I embarked on a project idea that I have long-dreamt of. The project is titled Tradition - An Evolving Continuum, and brings together professional Carnatic musicians from great musical lineages who have made their homes in the United States. In the many years of living here and making a huge impact in the Indian diaspora, you would be surprised to know that there hasn't been a single platform which has brought us together. This project will hopefully be the beginning of many to come!
Thus in a historic first-time and first-of-its-kind event, about eight of us musicians, specializing in different instruments, will get together in a new vocal-instrumental ensemble. For the first time, I have also explored a side of my musicality that I have consciously kept rather quiet, and attempted to compose some new pieces for this ensemble. I was indeed heartened to see my fellow-musicians responding to the compositions with enthusiasm and positivity during our rehearsals in May. The musicians in this new ensemble include some very accomplished and genial people and wield both Indian and non-Indian instruments - V V S Murari (the violinist, who is slowly making his home here), Nirmala Rajasekar (Vina artist), Vinod Seetharaman (Mridangam player), Ravi Balasubramanian (Ghatam player), N Muralikrishnan (Keyboard player), Prasant Radhakrishnan (Saxophonist) and Akshay Anantapadmanabhan (Konnakkol and kanjira player). I will myself provide the vocals and also play the Indian slide-instrument, Chitravina. You can listen to a sample of us here.
The first part of this project proposes to bring out the traditional aspects of Carnatic music, which I will attempt to do in a vocal concert accompanied by V V S Murari, Vinod Seetharaman, Ravi Balasubramanian and Akshay Anantapadmanabhan. Our program is scheduled for Nov 7, 2015 at The Painted Bride Art Center from 6.30pm. This link will give you more details about the event and also enable you to purchase tickets if you are interested.
My life as a teacher in this country has always been busy, but never as satisfying as it has been this year. While most teachers know that it is hard to produce worthy students (most expect a 5-10% turnover), I am happy to be going through a phase where nearly 40-50% of my students have now begun to get very serious about their music and have started performing at various events here and elsewhere. This last spring, a majority of my students performed in about 30-odd events (both individual and group), in a span of 10 weeks. We are set to have a similar Fall season!
Summer was lovely and hectic. It is when many of my long-distance students (and increasingly, some local students as well) come over to my place to do gurukulavasam (residential training). This is the thirteenth year my husband and I have hosted students at our house with the intention of fostering a more holistic view of the arts and giving greater intensity of training. This year, we again hosted about a dozen students. Apart from spending many many hours musically, we also have fun late-night walks, food experiments, movie and chat sessions!
The only break in the 3 months of continuous hosting/teaching students that we took was to go on the Carnatic cruise to Alaska, a brainchild of my brother Shashikiran, which turned to be a great success musically and otherwise! The places we saw, the lovely times we had on the ship both musically and otherwise, and the new friendships we formed, will be things I will cherish for a long time.
As school starts and we enter the hectic season of activity everywhere, I once again have to juggle different hats - going from performer, teacher, project manager, composer, director, to being a mom and a homemaker.
The first two events in my calendar are set for Sept 12, when my 15-year student Gaayathri Varavenkataraman gives her debut vocal performance in Buffalo, NY (Lippes Hall in Slee Hall at the SUNY campus from 5.30pm) and 20-year old Veena Kanumalla gives her first full-fledged concert for Sruti in the Philadelphia area. When a teacher is torn between two such events, what can one do but work harder to train the student whose performance the teacher cannot be present for physically! Wish us good luck and try to attend these events if you are in the area!