‘My mother, my greatest blessing’

24FR-ANURADHA_SRID_2483490gAnuradha Sridhar

As Lalgudi Srimathi Brahmanandam’s daughter, Anuradha Sridhar has got the best training.

“I feel happy and proud that Carnatic music is being taught without losing its focus on the fundamental values, and the students are dedicated in spite of being born and brought up in a different milieu”, says Srimathi Brahmanandam talking of the Trinity Center for Music, run by daughter Anuradha Sridhar in San Jose, California.

The Centre, which was started in 1989, celebrates the completion of 25 years of service this year. Chennai (July 25, 6 p.m. Music Academy), Tiruchi (28th ) and Bengaluru (31st) as well as in San Jose (August 22nd)Many students have come down to India for the programmes. “In fact the programmes are a tribute to my mother and guru, and she will also be honoured on the occasion,” says Anuradha.

In the programme, she will be touching upon some of their important projects. “We have some interesting plan or the other every week such as Dikshitar’s kritis on Lord Subrahmanya or Swati Tirunal’s Navaratri kritis. In the Siva-Vishnu Temple in Rivermore, during the annual festival, we presented kritis in front of each deity, during the pooja, which were compositions in specific ragas and talas believed to be the deity’s favourite. There are references about these in scriptures and we do research and learn them; Some talas, which are not in vogue now, we gave demonstrations of them. Once, we also added a dance performance to the programme.”

San Francisco World Music conducts many programmes and they have also presented classical Indian music, such as the one based on verses from Silappadikaram and Naukacharitam. Last year, she was asked to set music to ‘Susamskritam,’ which dealt with the journey of the language, as it were.

Listening to her describing the various projects, it is obvious that it has been a challenging as well as fulfilling 25 years. With pride, she narrates the unforgettable programme she presented on the occasion of the centenary of Madurai Mani Iyer. Anuradha and her mridangist brother, Sriram, a disciple of Kumbakonam Rajappa Iyer, took an early recording of Mani Iyer’s ‘Thaye Yasoda’ in Thodi accompanied by Lalgudi Jayaraman and Vellore Ramabhadran. They studied it thoroughly and notated every curve and every frill in the singing of Mani Iyer and violin playing of Lalgudi; Anuradha and Sriram then presented it along with her students. It was so thrilling and irresistible that dancer Radha, who was present in the audience, got up and began dancing.

The Trinity Center, which had a few students to begin with, has grown with many more, who are now capable of presenting a full-fledged concert.

Both vocal and violin are taught by Anuradha. Following the Lalgudi bani, the school teaches vocals even to instrumentalists, because the music is based on the vocal style. “We insist on teaching the lyrics and their meaning,” adds Anuradha. A person has been put in charge of teaching the meanings of the words and where to split them without changing the meaning.

“I accept only those (students) who are serious since I put in a lot of effort and also offer music with that has a good legacy.” Brother Sriram contributes to the laya aspect by teaching konnakkol. “Our students have won prizes in many competitions in the U.S. as well as in India in the nearly 35 categories in both vocal and violin, and even Harikatha.”

Their contact with western music comes with the San Francisco World Music, run by Michael Santoro. Since 2007, every year Anu and her students have been collaborating for their programmes, interacting and performing with musicians who come from various parts of the world. “I feel satisfied now. They (students) are hard working and many of them can sing and play the violin. Many of them also visit Chennai in December to sing during the Music Season. They can even handle difficult pallavis.”

At any given time, she has 40-50 students. All along, she has been the only teacher. But recently, a couple of her senior students have been helping out.

During summer holidays, it is like a festival with students spending almost the whole day at the centre. When musicians from India visit, they also teach some special items.

Anuradha’s students are children of Indian origin, born and raised in the U.S., whose cultural orientation is different.

In that context, she says, “When we teach classical music, we need to know what value system they should adhere to and what should be altered for their benefit. When a child comes from a family without any musical background, but is passionate and ready to work hard, we must develop a method of teaching him/her too. If the students come to me when they are in first grade, by the time they are in the 8th, they should be ready to present a concert of 45 minutes duration. Their foundation is so strong in vocals, violin or konnakkol that by the time they finish school, music is so much a part of them that they can’t quit it.”

Recently, Anu has started an online Trinity Centre, since there have been a lot of requests from students living in different States. The portal has been developed with customised approach to teaching based on her mother’s method; of course she has her own inputs, which have evolved through the years. This will also help her students to continue their lessons when they relocate to another city. Currently, the system is being improved so that even beginners can learn from the portal. Anuradha concludes saying, “My mother is my greatest blessing.”

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