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Sudha Ragunathan turns teacher, strikes the right chord with students at New Jersey
NEW JERSEY, March 11: As we recover from a spell of two bomb cyclones within a week here at New Jersey, a recent musical shower has brought in a meditative peace amongst the students of music in Northeast. They will forever remember the warmth and love they received from Sangita Kalanidhi Smt. Sudha Ragunathan over the week-end.

Sudha Ragunathan is in the United States since the last week of January this year on a Fulbright fellowship and as an adjunct faculty at the Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The rasikas in New Jersey saw a new hat donned by Sudha. She was in the State to conduct a two- day workshop aptly named ‘Vidhyaadhaan’ under the aegis of Sudhaarnava Academy of Musical Excellence that was launched by her last year.

Vidhyaadhan was a two-day workshop conducted on March 3 and March 4, 2018 for students of Carnatic music. The workshop had over 80 participants, some even travelling from afar, from places such as Boston.

This was the first of a kind workshop that Sudha was conducting in Northeast, and the students saw a completely new avatar of the famed artist. With over four decades of concert experience, her movement into the hallowed art of teaching and imparting her music that she had learnt from her legendary guru late M.L. Vasanthakumari (and, in the course of her career added her own touch) had its desired impact on the students. On a cold windy morning, not barring the weather, the workshop was in full attendance with an enthusiastic group of children who were so focussed and hanging on to her every word!

The first batch of students were taught the popular Charukesi varnam of Lalgudi Jayaraman. The aesthetic presentation of how to sing every sangathi was demonstrated with precision, and the students reciprocated with equal fervour.

Day 1 saw students who had learnt over a dozen kritis under their belt, so that they could assimilate the intricacies involved in singing the complicated varnam composed by Lalgudi Jayaraman. Sudha not only imparted musical lessons but also gave insights on voice culture, the relevance of the right posture while singing and other critical aspects related to vocal music. She stressed on the importance of bhavam and swara shudham while rendering the compositions and highlighted on the need to take forward the composers ideas’ while singing.

On Day 2, it was another set of enthusiastic students from the age group of 6-15. As the response was overwhelming, the organizers had to split the group so that it would be easier for the artist to handle them all and also being able to give individual attention. Papanasam Sivan’s Anandabhairavi kriti ‘Singaravelavan vandhan’ was the choice for the first batch, and Thyagaraja’s ever popular Jayanthasri kriti ‘Marugelara’ was taken up for the second group.

Sudha immediately struck a rapport with children. As many of them were not fluent with their mother tongue (as is the case with many Indian born children in United States), Sudha beautifully worked on the phonetics as well. Taking on from the previous day, the teacher in her blossomed and she stressed the importance of open throated singing and also on how to lay emphasis on certain syllables to bring out the raga bhava. She demonstrated on singing the ‘gamakas’ and practicing ‘akarams’ that form the backbone of Carnatic music.

With such a complicated but structured form, it is certainly not so easy to teach Carnatic music to students who are born and raised in a foreign land. While credit certainly goes to the parents for motivating the children to attend such workshops, the alacrity and deftness of the teacher plays a primordial role in being able to impart in an absorbable and understandable manner. And these children had a star in front of them who did complete justice to the role and from whom they could emulate.

At the end of the workshop, it was not just the students but the parents as well who wanted more…...! Like a feeling of de javu – akin to a similar ask at the end of Sudha’s concerts! For rasikas in United States, she is conducting workshops at Phoenix, Arizona in April 2018 and will be having interactions with rasikas at Colorado and other cities in the U.S.

It was indeed a golden opportunity for music rasikas and the students to not just meet the legendary artiste but also see her in a new role which received an overwhelming response from one and all.