Twelve students and two teachers from Bala Vidya Mandir, Adyar, Chennai, (who call themselves the Hototo! Boundary Breakers) will travel across major cities of the U.S. including Boston, New York, Washington D.C., and towns of historical significance around Virginia this May. Hototo! is a Native American term that means the song of the fearless spirit. The destinations include institutions such as Columbia University, Harvard, MIT, Mary Baldwin University, and organisations such as Smithsonian, World Bank, and Kickstarter.
A deeper connect
The trip is expected to provide for a deep cultural immersion through a combination of classroom sessions in biology or math or public speaking and constant interaction with American faculty, and activities like a community connect at MIT. It is being coordinated by the LEAP (Leadership Engagement in Artistic Performances) project, a platform that encourages collaboration and leadership among youth.
LEAP members Srinivas Krishnan, Deborah Thiagarajan, Baskar Subramanian, Suresh Pattamadai, Shvetha Jaishankar, Bhairavi Jani and Kalyanasundaram have stacked up diverse cross-cultural experiences using music and the arts to make a deeper connect with the local communities.
Baskar Subramanian, who will be joining the team at Mary Baldwin University, says, “Mary Baldwin University is best known for leadership considering they have the VWIL programme (Virginia Womens Institute for Leadership). Every student is given enormous freedom to be creative and we are pleased that the students will have the opportunity to involve themselves in diverse projects from mural making to understanding Shakespearean theatre.” Shvetha Jaishankar who is also joining the team in Washington D.C. states, “The Chennai team personifies the term Boundary Breakers; they do not wish to conform to one ideal alone.”
According to Deborah Thiagarajan, the invite from Berklee College of Music stands out considering the Chennai Boundary Breakers have been invited to their brand new studio space in New York city called Powerstation.
Students will connect with Valerie Naranjo, famed for The Lion King percussionist and band member of NBC’s Saturday Night Live show. Suresh says, “Valerie collaborated with LEAP a year ago and will be watching the children perform at the Milbank Chapel at Columbia University.”
Every presentation will feature works of A.R. Rahman, the mentor of team LEAP, especially his range of Sufi compositions and songs rooted in Indian Classical Music.
Two of the school’s teachers, will accompany the students. Jamuna Kesavan (Headmistress) is a Tamil Scholar while Shoba Padmanabhan steers several projects in the biological sciences including turtle walks.
Their last stop would be Broadway, where they will experience Disney’s The Lion King and understand backstage formulas in a production like this, through the eyes of Valerie Naranjo.