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LearnQuest Music Festival In Boston - A Way To Connect To Homeland, says Durga Krishnan
Durga Krishnan is a graduate of Carnatic Music College of Madras. She is among the principal disciples of well-known Veena player late Dr. Chittibabu. She is a popular veena and vocal teacher in the Boston area. She is one of the key persons behind the three-day music conference organized by Waltham-based Learnquest Academy of Music, a non-profit institution devoted to providing formal instruction in Indian classical music – both Carnatic and Hindustani.

She is also learning under the guidance of Violin maestro Lalgudi G. Jayaraman for the past five years. In an interaction with Sudha Jagannathan, she talks about the challenges involved in organizing music festivals in a foreign country.

What are the challenges involved in organizing Carnatic music festival in an away place like the U.S. (Boston)?
Answer: Funding is the number one challenge. There is then this task of getting enough people in the audience to justify the caliber of the artistes.

What is the need for such a Carnatic music concert in a place like Boston?
Answer: There is a huge Indian population that lives in this area and many children are learning Indian fine arts such as dance and music as a way to stay in touch with our culture and values. So, it becomes important to expose those children to another level by having these high caliber artistes' concerts. For people like me, it is one of our connections to our homeland and childhood.

What has been the response of rasikas?
Answer: We have a core music group in the Boston area that is made up of about 50-60 families that will attend all the concerts. These rasikas are also hardcore music fans and will sit through the whole concert no matter how long they are. For festivals such as the one we organize once a year, we get audience from both Hindustani and Carnatic sides since we cover both systems.

What it takes to organize artistes (from India)? What are the organizational problems and logistics challenges?
Answer: Organizing host families, transportation and hospitality are the main issues. Luckily, we have several families who consider hosting artistes as a privilege. Finding the suitable auditorium, sound system and sound engineers who understand the Indian music is also equally a challenge.

Do the artistes feel at home or do they feel ill at ease?
Answer: Artistes are taken such good care of. I would say that they feel right at home. Lot of the times, the host family would also try to organize teaching work shops etc., so the students here can benefit more and also the artistes can make a little extra money.

This is the third year of concerts series for LeanQuest. How difficult is it to sustain this in the years to come?
Answer: The most difficult part of organizing such festivals, as I have mentioned earlier, is raising enough funds. Though we raised over 50k, we still lost about 4-5k this year, because the artistes' fees and other expenses have gone up. Hopefully, we can get some grant money and more sponsorship in the future to fix that problem.

What kind of artistes and music the non-resident Indians there wish to see and hear?
Answer: Real authentic and high caliber classical artists are the ones the real music lovers want to see and hear. But there is a big market for the semi- classical and light music, too .

Do youngsters among NRIs also participate in such musical extravaganza or is it dominated by the older ones?
Answer: We give opportunities to local talents and younger talents, as well as established artistes from India at our festival. Our organization – LearnQuest - being an educational entity, we definitely encourage young talents more than some other organizations by holding recitals at the end of each semester. We give a lot of opportunities to these NRI children who are learning music and dance during the Navarathri festival that I organize at the Hindu temple here in Boston. I also organize monthly dance and music program by these students for the youth cultural committee at the temple.

You have seen the December (Marghazi) music season in Chennai? How different is the one organized in the U.S?
Answer: The festival is done over a span of almost 4 weeks in Chennai, but we do it during a week-end starting from a Friday evening and end it on Sunday night. Holding the concerts for a whole week long is not as useful, as many of us have to go to work during the weekdays. Even in Cleveland where they do the Tyagaraja Aradhana for the 10 days, the crowd is very thin after the first week-end.
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