Week-long Swara Raga Laya Carnatic Music Workshop 2015 Enlightens Numerous Youngsters


By Chittoor Ramachandran

HOUSTON: Houston’s aspiring Carnatic music enthusiasts had a great opportunity to participate in a week-long music camp during August 3 to 8 at Ashtalakshmi Temple.  Krishna Gana Sudha Music Academy that organized this camp has built its reputation in Greater Houston, primarily due to the dedication of its director Vidushy Rajarajeswary Bhat.  Over a period of the past 12 years, she has established an admirable history of training (Carnatic style of music) hundreds of children.  Both as a performer and as a teacher, Rajarajeswari Bhat has earned the respect from connoisseurs of Carnatic music nationwide.

In a magnified class room style of teaching, the camp created an atmosphere completely consumed by art, with over 60 aspiring youth and adults representing their families.  Students at various levels of learning remained captivated throughout the long hours, as the curriculum included the discussions of numerous interesting aspects of music.  While Rajarajeswari Bhat steered major part of the teaching, Vidwan Erode Nagaraj conducted several sessions of lessons on the importance of ‘ laya’ in music.  Several invited musicians like Padma Saranathan, K.P. Nandini and Murali Parthasarathy contributed much to enhance the interest of each student by offering renditions highlighting various aspects of Carnatic music system.

Krishna Gana Sudha Academy is considered as the forerunner of a singularly successful music school for its curriculum that merges ancient traditions of teaching with the need of youngsters growing up in US families.  The music camp predominantly followed the regular class curriculum; In addition, it facilitated opportunities for self-assessment, self-reliance, team work, interaction between the students of different levels, presentation before the peers etc.  Evidence of accomplishment gained by regular practice, as expressed in short presentations by senior students in the camp inspired attentive beginners.

The divine ambience of Ashta Lakshmi Temple was an ideal setting for teaching and learning Indian classical music.  Although it is understandable that in a camp like this, one could expect to have only a glimpse at the wide ocean of music, I noticed the progressive increase in the curiosity and passion in several children as the days progressed. During repeated singing of selected well known compositions in certain ragas, the basic notes in them intrigued several of the students.

This camp also promoted creative challenge to understand the basis of raga classification and the ways to identify the ragas based on the notes.  In one of the exercises, the students were taught to create a swarajathi in the raga of their choice. Such a challenges and quiz made the camp extremely interesting to most students.

The concerts rendered by the guest artistes were scholarly and informative. All participants had much to take home when they dispersed reluctantly. By entrusting senior aspiring musicians to assist to teach beginner level students in classes of smaller sizes, the time during the camp was well utilized.

The camp was attractive to most students since it promoted confidence of their ability.   A wide range of planned activities like Yoga exercise ( instructed by Poornima Bhat) , group practice, snack breaks etc. created a joyful time.   In every aspect of the camp, including the curriculum, one could notice professionalism, passion and experience in conducting such instructional workshops.