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New England Children Continue To Excel At Cleveland Festival

Vidya Raman

This year, Cleveland State University hosted the 39th Cleveland Thyagaraja Festival, the largest Indian classical music festival outside of India, between March 23rd and April 3rd, 2016.  There were over 8,000 attendees during the 12-day event which brings together some of the finest musicians and dancers from India and the US.  A big highlight of the festival is the music and dance competition for the many talented children from all over the US.  This year, over 800 children participated in various competitions.


Once again this year students from New England area participated and won prizes.  A list of the children who won prizes is provided below.


Diya Godavarti is a 6th grade student at Blanchard Middle School, Westford, MA.  Diya has been learning music from Guru Smt. Tara Anand Bangalore from the tender age of five.  She won the second prize in the Junior Vocal Niraval competition.  Diya also participated in Sustaining Sampradaya, a 3 hour vocal concert both in 2015 & 2016 organized by the Cleveland Aradhana. Recently, she had the opportunity to perform at Chennai, during the December 2015 Marghazi season.  She was accepted into the 2016 Massachusetts All State Treble Chorus and performed with renowned composer/conductor Rollo Dilworth and singers from across the state in an honors choir at the Music Educators All State Conference in March 2016. Diya’s other passions include math, biking, reading, soccer and painting.


Amrita Ajai Thirumalai is a keen student of Carnatic music & Barathanatyam. She has been learning classical vocal from Guru Tara Bangalore and dance from her mother Sridevi Ajai Thirumalai for the past 7 years and enjoys it immensely. Under the guidance of her Guru Tara, Amrita has performed in many music festivals held in The New England area. Amrita has also finished her dance arangetram and performs for various charities regularly in Boston and India. Amrita was part of Sustaining Sampradaya - a 3 hour vocal concert in 2015 & 2016 organized by the Cleveland Aradhana.  She also took part in solo music & dance competitions, in which children from all over the US and Canada compete. Amrita won the 3rd place for kalpana swaram and Javali/Padam. She was also 3rd in the Bharatanatyam competition. Amrita is passionate about both the art forms and wishes to pursue it forever.  She is currently a 7th grader at St.Bernadette School.


Sahana Venkatesh lives in Andover, MA and is a freshman at Andover High School. She won the first prize in Krithi Veena Senior competition. She has been learning Veena from Smt Durga Krishnan from the age of 7. She has also been learning Carnatic vocal music and Indian traditional dance Bharatanatyam for the past 9 years and 4 years respectively. Sahana also learns Sanskrit and is in her final year of Samskrita Bharati's Sanskrit as Foreign Language (SAFL) program. Mathematics and Computer Science are her favorite subjects at school. Her hobbies include reading, listening to music and spending time with her sister. She is interested in knowing more about Indian and other cultures alike. 

Cleveland Aradhana - Sustaining Sampradaya 2016

Along with the competitions, this year 7 children from Massachusetts also participated in Cleveland’s Sustaining Sampradaya events. This was the tenth year the Cleveland Aradhana Committee continued its education series through Sustaining Sampradaya. Senior vidwans such as Vidwan Shri B. Krishnamoorthy, Vidwan Shri P. S. Narayanaswamy, Vidushi Suguna Varadachari, Vidushi Shyamala Ventakeshswaran, Vidwan Sri Neiveli Santhanagopalan to name a few, spearheaded the training since November 2015. In the month of March 2016, team of musicians under the guidance of Smt Suguna Varadachari trained the children before the final presentation.    

The first stream was dedicated to Bharat Ratna M.S. Subbulakshmi, on her centenary celebration. Mahima Vinay, Sanajana Srinivas (both students of Guru Tara Anand, Anubhava School of music) and Sriman Komaragiri (student of Dr M. Narmada) participated in this stream who gave their final performance on Saturday March 26 in front of packed audience.

The second stream was dedicated to Vidwan Sri Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar on his 125th birth anniversary. Vidwan Sri Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar revolutionized the performance of Carnatic music on stage, ensuring that compositions were given their due importance alongside improvisation. Amritha Ajay Thirumalai, Diya R Godavarti, Utsavi James and Vaibhavi James (all students of Guru Tara Anand) participated in this stream and gave their final performance on Monday March 28 in front of eminent vidwans and vidushis in the audience.

Their Gurus encouraged and supported these children through these last several months in preparation for Sustaining Sampradaya. Kudos to all these children for participating at Cleveland Music festival.

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