Rashmi Anand, a class VII standard student, takes to biology like a duck to water.  Her friends K. Shreyaswini, R. Bhavana and Manshree Singh show a precocious talent for mathematics. A. Nandita’s favourite subject is history. But what is common to all of them is a passion for music that eclipses their interest in academics. 

At a time when students are bending over backwards to get into elite educational institutions and nurturing dreams of fat salaries, a group of students learning music at Bala Brundam, despite their academic excellence, prefer music as a career. 

Among Bala Brundam’s students is also Padma Sugavanam, a school topper in Plus Two examinations who holds a double doctorate in music and Sanskrit and teaches at the music college in Tirupati. Another student Sowmya Sudharsan has registered for her doctorate. 

The institution, founded by scholar-musician Seetha Rajan, is a modern day gurukulam , offering music classes seven days a week after regular school hours. During holidays, classes last throughout the day. Many of the students are winners of the Centre for Cultural Resources and Training (CCRT) scholarship instituted by the Indian government to encourage outstanding young children to develop their talent in various artistic fields.

But not everyone can become a student of Bala Brundam. 

“Many parents do not like the conditions we expect them to follow. We can shape them well, and the background of the children is immaterial. But they have to learn music for at least 10 to 15 years and appearing on stage before that period is not allowed,” said Seetha Rajan, a disciple of late Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer. 

Unlike many music schools where lessons are initiated with the conventional beginner's raga, Mayamalavagowla , Ms. Seetha Rajan teaches her students ragas such as Mohanam .

Bodhana , a curriculum for music, is also ready for publication. “It makes it easy for the children to understand the notes and learn,” she said. 

Though a few students opted for other subjects as part of their higher education, they too returned to music for a postgraduate degree. K. Gayatri, who studied electronic media during her undergraduate years, opted for a masters in music at Madras University as did A. Archana. 

A. Aarti and K. Swathi even skipped college and signed up for a correspondence course in music so that they could learn directly from Ms. Seetha Rajan. 

Asked if they missed the fun and freedom of life in college, Swathi said she and other students were “very focussed” on what they are doing and learning music as a group and attending camps was more than compensation.