By Preetha Raghu
My relationship with music when I was young was a rather tumultuous one. I was what you'd call a 'perfectionist'. I would get extremely annoyed if I could not get a note right. With much practice and effort, I did two concerts under the tutelage of the ever encouraging Sivasakthi Sivanesan, but when I needed to go to college, I decided to step away.
Enough music, I thought! It was time to focus on studies!
Fast forward a few years later, and I had made it: I came to New York for work. In my four years of not singing, I realized how much I missed it. I decided to take classes up again, but NOT performance. Learn I did, from my music teacher, Kamini Dandapani. She introduced me to other musicians around the city through her culture nights, and it was there I heard Shiv Subramaniam and Roopa Mahadevan sing. I immediately was spell bound.
A few months later, Kamini asked me whether I would be interested in joining a Carnatic Music Choir - a new concept which Sahi Sambamoorthi from Navatman had thought of and which Roopa Mahadevan would be heading. I thought this would be a good opportunity to meet new, like minded people and so I sent in my audition tape. I wondered with a mixture of excitement and trepidation what it would be like to sing with such amazing artists.
As we started learning songs, something in me began to change. The initial nervousness I felt began to dissipate, and when that melted, I began to see the lovely people around me. Roopa and Shiv were so giving in their music and never made us feel like we lacked anything other than practice. Each song that we learnt was a new challenge because we had to learn to sing together.
For the first time in years, I was eager to show my dad what I had learnt. Music provided a nice balance to my work life, my MBA life, and my social life. Everything fell into place and helped the other.
Then Drive East happened and two more people joined our motley crew. We started gearing up for our marathon-esque November 2014 concerts. Two hour practices during free weekends turned into major events. We ate, hung out, sang together. We got closer, and opened up more about our personal lives. From strangers to friends, we started thinking like a group.
Our November concert was a success. We had earned a month off. And as much as I wanted that month off, I found myself missing my NMC'ers. I used every opportunity to meet them again. My perspective on music had changed. I wanted to sing, I found myself creating. I learnt life lessons from my new friends which I was able to implement in my work and personal life. When I was facing a particularly rough time, the NMC members did their very best to support and encourage me.
Each member (Roopa, Shiv, Janani, Divya, Shraddha, Vignesh, Kaushik, Bhargavi, Rashmi, Kamini, Kalpana) has taught me something precious. Special mention to Sahi who helped us come together in the first place, as well as Anjna, Rajna and all musicians who were with us through this journey.
I can say that now I have grown to love music, and have grown to acknowledge my own insecurities about it. I have even grown to understand myself more, and taken inspiration from this incredible network. It has helped me with my work and has provided me with the ability to think freely and creatively. I am lucky to be a part of it, and count my blessings every day.
So thanks NMC. You have given me so much more than music!