Visionary musician like none other!

Visionary musician like none other!

Visionary musician like none other!


Her path to music may have been an accidental one, but her ability to do things in a different way may have the potential to take Carnatic music to places where people have not even heard of the genre.

Without meeting any of her 24 students living in the US — or spending on expensive air tickets to visit the country, Vijayalakshmi has taught them Carnatic krithis, and also made a few of them win prizes in competitions.

"I taught them some of the 'Notu Swaras' — the Westernised notes in Carnatic music composed by Sri Muthuswamy Dikshitar that raised the curiosity of their choristers. After learning the pieces from me, my students would in turn teach it to them. This way, Carnatic music is now changing hands from NRIs to the white Americans," Viji says, unable to suppress a triumphant smile.

Determined to succeed
What inspired this 24-year-old Bangalorean's attempt to discover a new teaching method for classical music is a rather unheard of eye condition — Retinitis Pigmentoza — that rendered her sightless as a child. "Blindness had made me use technology profusely on a daily basis. This lead me to discover the Internet and Skype, through which I teach my US students now," she reveals. 

"Skype has been one of the favourite applications for persons with visual challenge," Viji explains. "The idea of making Skype a medium to teach music occurred since I started to use the programme a few years ago. With a webcam, people can watch and hear me sing. So though it is virtual learning, it is not actually different from direct learning."

Despite taking a strong liking for classical music, Viji would consider herself to be a hard-nosed, cerebral kind, rather than an emotional romantic, plunging herself in art with all her youthful passion. "I like taking an academic approach to it (classical music). In fact, the choice to acquire a degree in Carnatic music (from Madras University) is the best way I can marry my interest for it with my penchant to study a subject systematically," she says.

Amidst suggestions from many people to send her to a special school, her parents decided to sign her up for a mainstream one, since most schools for the blind were residential and they were reluctant to leave their only daughter alone. Eventually Viji landed up in Premier School (Srirampura), where her mother Rukmini worked as a teacher.  As she sat in her eighth class one day, Viji was shocked when a teacher pointed to her and said: "why should disabled kids come here?" All that she could feel was a sense of determination to prove the teacher's idea of a disabled kid wrong.
In SSLC exams, Viji scored 85.3 per cent, the top mark in a school where she alone was visually challenged. "That was the first ever distinction for Premier school and the score silenced many who were sceptical about a visually challenged girl studying in a mainstream school.”

While she was still in school, her mother asked her to learn Carnatic music and a reluctant Viji could hardly oppose her. But gradually, she grew fond of music. "I think the natural inclination towards music has got to do a lot with my family," Viji says. "My dad Varadarajan could sing and identify ragas and my uncle could play the tabla. So, I grew up with a bit of music around me all the time."

Sure enough, music was part of her Bachelor’s degree and she went on to complete Masters in music. The impressive academic qualifications was matched by stage and television performances. She even took on a unique project of rendering 100 shlokas of Adi Shankara's Soundarya Lahari in different ragas. "If someone wants, I can teach it through Skype," Viji offers.

Through the Sushravya School of Music, which she established about two years ago, Viji has been teaching Carnatic music to students in the city, as well as online. She has big dreams for the school. "I want it to be the best institution for learning Carnatic music in South India. I want to spread this music to many outside the country using internet," reveals Viji, who is also in the process of signing up for her PhD programme.

She has perfected the teach-by-internet mode by backing up live teaching sessions with video recordings and notational scripts. "If students have doubts in any aspect of music, they contact me through email and get clarification for their doubts," Viji says.

Viji can be reached by mail at: viji.rv@rediffmail.com

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