Sangeeta Vidushi Jayashree Varadarajan, Founder of the Sri Rama Lalitha Kala Mandir (SRKLM) School of Fine Arts, received global attention on April 7 when she was granted the 2012 “Best Teacher of the Year Award” at the 35th Annual Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana. Varadarajan received the award for her extensive contributions in the field of Carnatic music and music education. She is well known for her work as a composer, performer, recording artist, director, and instructor. The Aradhana committee, which has international stature, specifically cited Varadarajan’s huge impact in training record numbers of students while still adhering to the strict rigor and practices demanded by the South Indian Classical music tradition.
Jayashree Varadarajan, Teacher of the Year, Receives Prestigious Tanpura from V. V. Sundaram
For over 25 years Jayashree Varadarajan’s school has been a fixture in Bay Area music circles as the pre-eminent institution for Carnatic music instruction. Teachers, critics, and audiences alike are universally drawn to Varadarajan’s pioneering and epic music productions such as “Syananduresvara”, “Prince of Ayodhya”, and “Planet Prayers” which manage to break new ground while staying authentic to the Carnatic music medium. Additionally, she has shepherded countless individuals through the transformation from novice to full- fledged performing artist. Varadarajan’s students emphasize that she is much more than a music instructor. As one individual put it “Jayashree Aunty doesn’t just teach us about Ragas. She teaches us about ourselves.”
SRLKM was also invited to give a showcase concert performance at the Aradhana to commence the week’s festivities. Varadarajan designed an unprecedented program in Aradhana history which consisted of a five song-cycle of Dikshitar Krithis all dedicated to Ganesha with a Raga selection that precisely paralleled Thyagaraja’s popular and well known Pancharathna Krithis. Her students were accompanied by Rangashree Varadarajan on the violin, Arjun Haran on the Mridangam, and Cleveland Sri. R. Balasubramaniam on the Kanjira.
SRLKM Students Render Innovative Dikshitar Ganesha Song Cycle. Students who performed were Sandesh Rallapalli, Apoorva Rangan, Maithri Knoda, Sravya Rallapalli, Samhita Kadiyala, Megha Ranganathan, Nandita Sriram, Sruthi Ramaswamy, Shruthi Tirumale, Manasa Vemuri Sandhya Vijapurapu, Sahana Narayanan, and Sushmita Srikanth. The vocalists were accompanied by Rangashree Varadarajan on the violin, Arjun Haran on the mridangam, and Cleveland Sri. R.Balasubramaniam on Kanjira”
V. V. Sundaram, the Aradhana Committee Head, noted the difficulty and challenges in rendering these particular Dikshitar Krithis and emphasized that the Varadarajan and her students “set the bar” with their flawless renditions. Sundaram also highlighted the fact that the sixteen performers on staged maintained “exact synchronization” without compromising any of the microtonal aspects of the music. Well known Carnatic music luminaries such as Flute Vidwan N. Ramani were present in the audience and enthusiastically praised the performers and the performance.
As a fitting coda to Varadarajan’s Award, after the student concert the Aradhana committee was inspired to publically invite the school to present additional performances both at the Cleveland Aradhana and venues abroad.