For 25 years, The Youth Association of Classical Music (YACM) has given young artistes a platform to show their talent while using innovative methods to get the young interested in Carnatic music. Here’s a look at YACM's growth and its impact on the Carnatic music scene

Today we know the Youth Association for Classical Music (YACM) as an association for young musicians. But it was quite novel when it began in 1985. It was formed when a few youngsters from the Vivekananda College felt the need for a forum dedicated exclusively to Carnatic Music.

Encouraging young talent

It was a very different atmosphere back then. There were few opportunities for young musicians; no festivals to showcase their talent; Even the music season did not feature many slots fro juniors, unlike today when youngsters are getting many openings to catch the eye.

Enter YACM. The organisation started with the objective of providing more concert opportunities to deserving youth. Apparently there was a time when every sabha would ask an applicant (for a concert) if he or she had performed in YACM events. Such was the benchmark of quality that the association set.

Almost every top Carnatic musician today had their first few performances thanks to YACM.It did not stop with providing concert opportunities. It also came up with many novel ideas to bring more crowds to the concert halls. Its innovative methods to reach out to more rasikas led to many turning up for youth concerts resulting in a new kind of concert culture that did not compromise on tradition: one that we know as the contemporary concert experience.

Popularising Carnatic music

YACM brought out a four-page-magazine, Dhwani, to be distributed to the rasikas. It contained information about the artists, small games and puzzles related to Carnatic music to keep the audience engaged before and after the concerts. It also had many interesting anecdotes, tidbits, small notes and articles to help the rasikas understand the nuances of music better.

Every concert of YACM was presided over by a senior artiste who would give their comments and views on the concert, which would be printed in the next day's Dhwani. This constructive criticism highlighted both positive and negative aspects. Even the artistes had to wait with the rasikas to open the Dhwani to know what the feedback was.

The tremendous increase in the number of demonstrations and workshops after the launch of YACM is probably one of its biggest contributions.There used to be several lec-dems, lec-cons, educative sessions, and workshops involving a wide range of artists and numerous creative topicsThe fact that an organisation of such enormity was being run so efficiently, not by the highly experienced, but by growing musicians was encouraged with great fondness by great vidvans and vidushis.

In addition, YACM also designed a number of games: Akshara Andadhi, Thala Tharangini, Svara Jam... all designed to promote the learning, understanding and assimilating of Carnatic Music in a casual and relaxed manner. The main objective was to create an environment where learning was fun, easy and mutual. These games were so interesting and educative that curious rasikas flocked to catch just a glimpse of what was happening.

The forum provided a platform for musicians to exchange cassettes, share thoughts and ideas and sometimes even for heated arguments, all stemming from their passion for music. It gave students the freedom to ask questions and clear their doubts with senior musicians.

Innovative programmes

BAR (Build-a-Rasika) was one of the programmes introduced to spread awareness about Carnatic Music among the youth. This programme aims to impart basic knowledge of the system and to get people involved in the art form and has reached more than 100 schools across Tamil Nadu .

Another mega event that caught people's attention was YACM's Millennium show. A grand event organised to welcome the new millennium, it saw six generations of musicians coming together to pay tribute to Carnatic Music.

The event included artistes like the great Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer who inaugurated the show to about 500 school students singing Maithreem Bhajatha as the grand finale.

This event saw many new elements in Carnatic music world: a big screen showing the programmes outside the overflowing venue, PowerPoint presentations and clippings of great masters, professional lighting, stage and sound set up, walkie-talkies to communicate with each other across the auditorium, a flow chart prepared for almost every minute, a professional and aggressive approach towards advertising and media, publicity. This event also saw tickets being sold in black for the first time!

YACM is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and the celebrations will be held at the Music Academy from the August 21-29.

The Silver jubilee celebrations of YACM will be held at the Music Academy from August 21-29 with a variety of interesting programmes like kutcheris, presentations, plays, talk shows, Namasamkeerthanam, lec-dems, music carnival, competitions and games. More details on www.yacm.in or contact 9884234740, 9940059969

Rithvik Raja is the current president of YACM

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What they say?

Vellore Ramabadhran, Mridanga Vidvan: It feels great to see such organisations working to promote young talent in classical music. The encourage given to budding artists will help in nurturing musical talent amongst youngsters.

T.K. Murthy, Mridanga Vidvan: It has been a sincere effort from many of these musicians to make music grow along with young people. We did not have such platform in our earlier days. Budding musicians should make use of such organizations and shine.

Suguna Pusurhothaman, Vocalist: YACM reminds me of my school days. We had special music classes for those interested in Carnatic music but no organizations to act as good platforms to present concerts. These days, there are many forums to provide an opportunity to perform for budding musicians, and YACM has played an important part in making this possible.

R. Vedavalli, Senior Vocalist: I am glad to see young people working for Carnatic music. With so many distractions in today’s world, one can be proud that youngsters are shouldering huge responsibilities. The respect with which they treat veterans and senior musicians will definitely take them to great heights.

N. Vijay Siva, Founder Secretary of YACM: We had a great time setting up YACM and starting out with its activities and had a lot of fun organizing such activities.

R.K Shriram Kumar, Founder Treasurer of YACM: The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of YACM is the togetherness that we shared as a group. Be it with his own colleagues or with the senior musicians like KVN, Semmangudi, etc.

Sangeetha Sivakumar, Executive Committee Member of YACM: I had just moved to Chennai from Kerala and YACM really helped me feel at home. There were a lot of discussions and exchange of views which I cherish till date.

Amritha Murali, Ex Vice-President of YACM: I still remember how we all used to fight at our meetings. The moment the meeting was over, all baggage would be shed and it would all be fine again. That was a great quality.