It is with great pleasure that I write this letter to you. Alex and I will admit it; we are positively beside ourselves with excitement! We will be returning to India this year in November to continue our work in the “Violin Wise” program, teaching repair and restoration of violin family instruments. During the first program in November 2013, our program participants demonstrated an impressive capacity to learn our exacting craft. We came to feel like family with them and everyone who gave support to our effort, and we are looking forward to seeing our very extended Indian family again.
I would like to take this opportunity to once more express our gratitude to everyone who pulled together to help make this program happen, most notably Lalgudi G.J.R. Krishnan, Lalgudi Vijayalakshmi, and the Lalgudi Trust, along with our patrons who wish to remain anonymous. Their assistance in providing the program participants with specialty tools of our trade was absolutely invaluable. They also saw to it that we were received with utmost hospitality and very comfortable accommodations. Because of the vision of the Lalgudi Trust, this program took on a far grander scale than I had ever imagined possible, with their clear understanding that our craft is best learned in a focused environment over an extended period of time. The Lalgudi Trust exists to help benefit all of Carnatic music, and it is deeply gratifying to be a small part of this great gift by the founder, the legendary Lalgudi G. Jayaraman, whose name will never fade from the hearts of those who love this music. With the help of the Lalgudi Trust, we are able to disseminate our art in India, so that hopefully violinists may one day soon be able to access this style of repair without having to travel abroad.
This program would not have been possible without the participants, who on short notice carved out 3 weeks of their busy schedules to take on this very intense course, juggling their schedules to keep their professional lives up and running, or traveling great distances to learn from a couple of foreigners with whom they shared no language in common. We all enjoyed wonderful, humorous, and often deeply moving moments together. To them, our dear colleagues, we extend our thanks.
Noted architect Meera Natampally collaborated with architect student Alexandra Armanino to draw a blueprint of my bench in America and email the plans to India and create the most incredible workbench, central to our dream. The help offered us by Mr. S. Shivkumar of K.S. Engineering Tools was indispensable, keeping us supplied with necessary power tools and custom made hand tools. I’m certain we’ll be calling him again.
And of course Alex, who knows a great adventure when she sees one coming. She worked hard and paid her own way to Chennai in order to work hard again, seeing to it that she made herself an integral part of this wonderful project. When we return, I’m sure she’ll gladly show all of you the exquisite violin she’s made.
To so many others, who drove us around and helped us find things and enjoy your rich culture and cuisine, who offered a sweet smile while keeping me healthy, cleaning the shop, teaching us Tamil one word at a time, and not minding the strange noise that we make when we play the fiddles, we thank you.
So many great musicians coursed through the workshop that it was mind boggling. Even though you may not realize it, for decades I’ve been listening to any recording I could find of you and it’s a personal thrill to meet you and become part of your musical community.
Special thanks to Mr. V. K. Venkataramanujam, who took me on in 1980 as a violin student despite his better judgement.
Last, but most certainly not least, I owe a debt of gratitude to our dear friend Dr. Saravanapriyan Sriraman, who has been tirelessly promoting Carnatic music in the San Francisco bay area. When I grew tired after 25 years of trying to make this all happen, he refused to allow me to let go of the idea and kept alive the seed of this program which is now flourishing. He is a fine violinist and I hope to see him performing in the Music Academy one day.
Dear India, we can’t wait until we get to have another chat with you over a spicy tea and enjoy your company once more. You have provided me with so many breathtaking adventures over the past 35 years. I’ll arrive, hat in hand, ready to go once more. Thank you all!
With love and devotion…