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Lokvani Talks To Vikram Krishnamachari

Ranjani Saigal

Vikram Krishnamachari, rising senior at Tufts University is Co-President of MITHAS. Under the leadership of this young man this organization has grown. "It truly is amazing to see how Vikram has transformed MITHAS. All our concerts are very well attended and the organization does not loose money" says, Dr. Hari Arthanari, the other co-president. Vikram talked to Lokvani about MITHAS.

Could you share your musical journey? 

I began learning Carnatic music when I was six or seven years old from my mother, and continued learning from Bhuvana Kaushik of Belmont, MA. At the same time, I was learning to play Western classical music on the piano from Alice Pertchik-Udagawa. At some point, I started experimenting with playing Carnatic music on the electronic piano/keyboard, attempting to play varnams and simple kritis. I was learning violin from Tara Anand, who encouraged me to continue to pursue Carnatic music on the keyboard under her brother, Sriram Gangadharan. Sriram mama is a vocalist and flautist who is based in Chennai, India. For the past seven years, I have been learning from him through Skype and developing the nuances of playing Carnatic music on the keyboard. I have performed both in the Boston area and in Chennai during the December music season at Bharat Kalachar and Vani Mahal.

What motivated you take on the presidency of MITHAS? 

I was two years old when I first went to a MITHAS concert of N Ramani (Carnatic Flute) back in 1999. I was probably very disruptive, running up and down the stairs and making too much noise. I continued attending the Carnatic MITHAS concerts while growing up and started volunteering at concerts in 2013. I would help set up the sound system and sell CDs and tickets. After a couple of years, I joined the MITHAS executive committee and got more involved in the behind-the scenes operations of MITHAS. Last year, I was invited to take the role of co-president of MITHAS alongside Hari Arthanari.

I am supported at MITHAS by a talented and dedicated executive committee consisting of George Ruckert (Artistic Director), Karthik Natarajan, Nicole Satyanarayan, Ramya Parasuram, Rukmini Vijaykumar, Sandhya Sridhar, Sreekanth Sampathkumaran, and Sumana Rao. All of these committed individuals, as well as many other volunteers, work tirelessly to make every MITHAS concert successful.

Could you tell us a little about MITHAS and what value it brings to the music scene in New England? 

MITHAS was founded in 1993 by MIT music Senior Lecturer George Ruckert, MIT alum Moez Rawji and Donald Chand. We are celebrating our twenty-fifth anniversary this year in 2018.

MITHAS presents 12 music concerts every year - both Hindustani and Carnatic. We are an all-volunteer, fully non-profit organization. Our goal is to preserve, promote and present Indian and South Asian classical arts in the Greater Boston and New England areas. We offer a venue where students of music can listen to concerts by the top artists in their field and learn from them in the process.

What were the priorities you have worked on as President of MITHAS? 

My biggest goal as president of MITHAS is to fill the hall for every single MITHAS concert. This happens both when we choose our artist lineup for each season and when we promote and publicize our concerts. Over the past year, thanks to the efforts of our executive committee and volunteers, we have ramped up our publicity efforts by sending regular blasts to our mailing list, emailing concert tickets to members in advance, and having a strong social media presence on Facebook. These efforts have been paying off, as we had over 200 people attend every regular MITHAS concert this past spring. I hope to build upon this momentum and see even more people, both familiar and new faces, at our concerts in the fall.

What opportunities and challenges do you see for MITHAS?

I want to see MITHAS grow its membership to 400 people. For this to happen, it is important for us to reach new communities and demographics within the Boston area. Currently, the vast majority of MITHAS members tend to be people of Indian origin. I hope to do a better job reaching the non-Indian community and bringing many of them to our concerts. One way that we have been doing this is by attracting many students from local colleges and universities. Thanks to the generosity of the Palakurthi Foundation, we are able to offer FREE admission to all students with a valid ID to all regular MITHAS concerts. This brings in a lot of new listeners who otherwise wouldn't come to a MITHAS concert.  

You are an undergraduate student. How are you able to manage the time needed for MITHAS?

For me, volunteering for MITHAS and attending concerts is a great change in pace from being at college. It’s nice to be able to get off campus some afternoons and listen to music and get my mind off schoolwork. Although a significant time commitment is involved in making sure everything runs smoothly at the concerts, I really enjoy it. Seeing a packed Wong Auditorium audience enjoying a concert is incredibly rewarding.

Do you continue to practice and learn music? 

Yes, I continue to learn music from Sriram mama and practice in my dorm room. Practicing and listening to music is one of my primary forms of relaxation and it is always feels good to do it after a long day of classes or exams.

You are studying to be a Mechanical Engineer at Tufts. What place do you think music will have in your life in the future? 

Although I'm studying mechanical engineering, music will always continue to be something that I'm passionate about, both through playing the keyboard and organizing concerts at MITHAS. However, I have grown to realize that engineering and music aren't mutually exclusive. This past semester, I took a mechanical engineering class on architectural acoustics, which is the science of achieving good sound and acoustics in a space. When buildings are designed, engineers work to ensure that the materials, geometry, and dimensions of a room provide acoustics that are conducive to the purpose of the room. This is a field that I'd be interested in pursuing.

Additionally, I hope to teach Carnatic music on the keyboard to others down the road. The keyboard is not a very common instrument for Carnatic music, especially when playing challenging Carnatic ragas like Sahana, Dhanyasi, or Ananda Bhairavi. I would love to see the keyboard grow in popularity and become a respected instrument within the Carnatic music world. 

How can the community be involved with MITHAS? 

The best way to get involved with MITHAS is to become a member. By becoming a member, you help MITHAS further its goal of bringing top-notch artists to the Boston area. One of our primary sources for funding concerts is membership revenue. Members receive free admission to all of our (usually 12) regular concerts each year.

If you would like to support MITHAS at a deeper level, we would love to have you on as a MITHAS patron. Patrons help underwrite the cost of bringing artists to Boston and help make MITHAS sustainable. Our patrons are listed here and we would love to see you join the list!

Additionally, we need more volunteers to help MITHAS run. We are looking for people who can help host artists, drive artists, and other various behind the scenes tasks. If you have a talent for designing brochures or flyers for concerts or a knack for photography we need you! If you are interested in any of this, please shoot us an email at mithas@mithas.org and we can figure out how we can get you on board. 

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