From The President’s Desk
Balaji Raghothaman, President
Dear Sruti Member,
Welcome to the 2016 issue of Sruti Ranjani, our yearly publication. As we look back on this landmark year, namely the 30th year of Sruti’s founding, I am happy to report that we have had many successful accomplishments. At this juncture, it is quite clear that Sruti has matured into a premier organization that not only takes a central place in the arts fabric of the Indian diaspora, but a prominent place in the overall Philadelphia arts scene as well.
We presented a wide variety of events this year that reached into some very different audiences, while at the same time weaving a thread of classicism and quality through them all. It was a mixture of youth and experience, of tradition and innovation.
I would like to highlight a few aspects that stand out this year.
- The M.S. Subbulakshmi Centenary celebration event was a labor of love, both for Sruti as well as for R.K.Shriramkumar, and was personally the most satisfying event of the year for me. RKS made additional trips to Philadelphia during his spring concert season, and taught a select group of area youth the kritis and slokas dear to MS amma. The outcome was a grand event, a fitting tribute to the legend. We thank all who contributed to the success, especially the parents of the participating youth.
- The flagship event of the spring season, Saayujya, funded in part by the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage, was large in scale and scope. It was the very first time that Sruti commissioned a new artistic piece. There were also very fruitful outreach activities by T.M.Krishna and Priyadarsini Govind at the Curtis Institute and the University of the Arts. Additionally, with some diligent PR work, Sruti was able to obtain interviews for the artists with WHYY, as well as a review in the Philadelphia Inquirer, where Sruti was mentioned in the headline. The week-long event involved a tremendous amount of planning and work by the Sruti team.
- The community support for Sruti’s activities continues to be very strong, and we are grateful. This year, we had significant increase in the sponsor base. In addition, we had concert patron support from Smt. Bharathi & Dr. SumathiSena for the TN.Krishnan violin trio concert, and Smt. Vasantha Nagarajan support us at the patron level. We are indebted to them for their generous support, without which it would not be possible to run Sruti in a successful manner.
- Under the guidance of Santi Kanumalla as treasurer, we made several moves towards bringing our accounting system to an all-electronic basis. The primary vehicle was the use of Quicken for our financial record-keeping, assisted by the use of electronic copies of receipts and invoices as much as possible. These set of measures have been instrumental in making us substantially more efficient as an organization, and will save us a lot of time going forward.
- Pursuant to the decision taken in the last general body meeting in Dec 2015, we formed a committee of eminent community members to pursue the possibility of investing a portion of our cash balance. Based on their recommendation, such an investment was made in May 2016.
- We continued the Bala Bhavam initiative started last year, with the first dance event in November, followed by two vocal recitals on Sruti Day. This initiative, along with the MS Centenary, has continued and expanded on Sruti’s goal of providing opportunities for our own home-grown talent to shine on the big stage, in a long concert format, where they can amply demonstrate their mettle as well as gain experience.
- Over the past several years, there has been an increase in Sruti’s reach into the community, and one of the reasons has been the quality of our online efforts. We have especially attained a reputation, among the rasikas and other organizations, as well as from the artists themselves, for the quality of photographs we post online. Due to the power of social media, these photographs and hence our name spreads far and wide instantly. I would like to call out the efforts of the talented Srinivasan Raghavan and Srikant Raghavachari, for their excellent photography and diligent followup. These photographs, along with the innovative artist sketches we used this year, have given a nice boost to our image and brand.
In order to bring together such a wide array of programming and the various duties that come with it, we needed a dedicated group of volunteers. In this aspect, we were blessed with a highly driven group of board members who put in their heart and soul into the organization. I would like to thank Nari Narayanan (President-Elect), Srikant Raghavachari (Secretary), Santi Kanumalla (Treasurer), Shankar Muthuswami (Director, Resources), Srinivas Rao Donthineni (Director, Marketing), Lakshmi Radhakrishnan (Director, Publications and Outreach), Uma Sivakumar (Director 1) and Srinivasan Raghavan (Director 2). None of our achievements would have been possible without their valiant efforts. I would like to thank all of them for their hard work and unstinting support. Thanks are also due to Subha Narayanan, Mira Srikant, Ramana Kanumalla, Anu Donthineni, Gita Shankar and Pitchumani Sivakumar, for their involvement in various Sruti activities and for their support. I’d also like to thank the members of the board for opening their homes and helping in hosting and transportation of artists.
In addition to the board of directors, I would also like to thank a number of people without whom this year would not have been successful. With regard to the Saayujya event, I would like to thank Raji Venkatesan for her help in the planning, preparation and execution phases. Thanks are due to Kishore Pochiraju, who was instrumental in the successful proposal to the Pew center, with able assistance from Ramana Kanumalla, Rajee Padmanabhan and Renuka Adiraju among others. I would like to offer a special thanks to Ramana Kanumalla, Dinakar Subramanian and others for their invaluable assistance during the week of the event. Thanks are also due to Raji and Dinakar for hosting artists, particularly R.K. Shriramkumar, during his multiple trips to the city on behalf of Sruti.
The Sruti board would like to thank the Sruti Youth Group for all their contributions this year. In addition to taking advantage of the various opportunities to perform on the Sruti stage, they have helped out with website and document preparation, introductions of bala bhavam participants and several other tasks.
I would be remiss if I did not place a note of appreciation for MRS, our audio engineering contractor, and to Joe Baldino in particular. We have thrown a lot of different challenges at them, in terms of venue acoustics, artist temperament etc., and they have come through with flying colors each time, providing a consistently high audio quality, while all the while maintaining a smiling face and a good rapport with the artists.
Finally, before concluding, I would like to thank my wife Nandini, who has been a bedrock of support for me throughout the year. She has put up with the taxing schedules and long days, taken care of hosting many of the artists, their food needs, and providing them company in a discrete but gracious manner. Without her unflinching support, I am very sure I could not have done this job.
It has been an absolute privilege to serve the organization and the community. Few things in life can come close to the satisfaction of a well organized concert, when everything else falls into place, and everything else also falls into insignificance, as the divine sounds of the stage take over, and we are wrapped in unmitigated bliss. In the end, that is what it is all about.
I would like to thank you all for this opportunity to serve. A strong programming lineup is taking shape for the next year under Nari’s able guidance, with the likes of Amritha Murali, Shashank Subramaniam, Lavanya Ananth, O.S. Thyagarajan, Shijith and Parvati Nambiar slated to perform, among others. I would like to congratulate the incoming board and wish them the very best for a successful 2017.
Balaji Raghothaman, President