Does one need to pursue a course related to music? We ask for young musician, who made an impact this Marghazi season, for their take.

Vishaal Sapuram, chitravina player

I have actually not pursued any course related to music (if you mean an academic course). I did do a course in Sanskrit, though, which was intended to help in better understanding the sahityam in music. At least with regard to the Sanskrit degree, although the course gives a lot of information and knowledge that enhances the understanding and appreciation of music, it can detract from the actual focus and practice required for a musician. The biggest benefit of doing a rigorous course is that you are made to exercise different faculties of the mind and different abilities to be successful in college, and that in turn can help towards music. For example, my college in the U.S. often required us to write argumentative papers, where we had to defend a position using facts and logic, within the limit of a few pages. That experience would be valuable for a modern musician, especially if he/she desires to be a teacher.

Vishaal is a vocalist, chitravina artiste, and music teacher. He is a graduate of the University of Texas, U.S., in Sanskrit and Economics.

***********************************************

Shreya Devnath, violinist

I have always been passionate about music but also very interested in my academics. As I have been learning music all these years, I thought a degree in Economics would enable me to pursue academics on a parallel track.

The advantages are very clearly that a course in music has immense benefits in exploring the theoretical as well as the practical angles of the art. You get to learn about a lot of aspects like the evolution of the art, its treatises, an insight into the personalities whose contributions have helped shape the art, that you might not otherwise delve into. While the importance of this cannot be overstated, it is also true that the practical performance of the art does not strictly require this knowledge. A course in music is an added advantage but not an absolute necessity to a performer. There definitely are things that I would learn through a course in music that I might not be learning right now. Doing a course in music is something I'm definitely open to, being passionate and practically obsessed with the art. It will only deepen my understanding and appreciation of the art and that is something every artiste would be interested in.

Shreya is a violinist and a disciple of Lalgudi G. Jayaraman.

***********************************************

Rohan Krishnamurthy, percussionist

I’ve been pursuing music and academics, and the arts and sciences more generally, side-by-side since elementary school. By the time I graduated from high school, I was sure that I wanted to continue pursuing music at a professional level, but I was also interested in earning a degree in the sciences. In college, I pursued a double major in music and chemistry at Kalamazoo College, Michigan. After graduating from college, I came to a juncture where I had to decide whether I wanted to pursue music or chemistry full-time. To do both would be virtually impossible and one would end up taking priority over the other. Given my long-standing musical passion and the success that I achieved in the music industry, I decided to pursue music full-time.

I feel that the more you know about music performance, and not just in your native musical language but in other traditions as well, the better. I’m also lucky to be pursuing a degree in music, as opposed to electrical engineering or evolutionary biology, where one’s academics have little or nothing to do with music. Contrary to the Indian and Indian-American stereotype, I chose to pursue music full-time and have benefited immensely from my decision.

If a musician is only exposed to one musical tradition, then he/she often thinks that it represents the zenith of music. You hear so many musicians boasting about Carnatic music, for example, as though it is the ultimate musical tradition and often disparaging other musical traditions. However, when you seriously learn and immerse yourself in another musical tradition, both its performance tradition and scholarship, you realise that music is as diverse and wide-ranging as human culture. Without this in-depth knowledge and appreciation for music as a global phenomenon, it is very difficult for a musician to succeed in today’s international music industry.

Rohan was in Chennai since August to pursue his PhD dissertation fieldwork on the impact of virtual music education in Carnatic percussion. Eastman School of Music at the University Rochester, New York, U.S

***********************************************

Ramakrishnan Murthy, vocalist

I never thought of doing a course in music. As I was in the U.S., none of the music courses offered in universities there applied to me directly. Well for one, doing a course in another discipline broadens one's knowledge. If I were in India, maybe I would have thought about pursuing music academically as well, but it was out of question since I was in the US. Doing a course in Carnatic Music would definitely help, it never hurts to have a strong theoretical background. Yes, definitely maybe history-wise and theory-wise. But since I am into performing, I don't feel I'm at a disadvantage because I don't have much knowledge in these areas. Whatever little I know is what my gurus have taught me and what I have read on my own. But the good thing is, I think it is possible to pursue a course in music anytime. I have several friends who have done the same.

Ramakrishnan is a Chennai-based Carnatic vocalist and a Computer Science graduate of the University of California, Irvine.