Winning hearts with strings

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | VANDANA MOHANDAS
Published Sep 19, 2018, 12:00 am IST
Updated Sep 19, 2018, 12:20 am IST
Young violinist Sagar Nagaraj is excited to perform in the Australian World Orchestra’s first show in Kerala.
Sagar Nagaraj.
 Sagar Nagaraj.

Three months ago, when the Australian World Orchestra (AWO) announced its very first show in Kerala that was to happen in Kochi, what was enchanting was not just the idea of experiencing Western Classical music but noted Australian conductor Alexander Briger bringing together the leading resident players in a single ensemble. Among big names like Australian violinist Daniel Dodds and French Mezzo-Soprano Miss Caroline Meng is 21-year-old violinist Sagar Nagaraj, who is excited about his first visit to Kerala.

Sagar, whose parents hail from Bengaluru and Mysuru, was brought up in Australia, where he started taking violin lessons at a tender age of eight. But he doesn’t prefer the word prodigy. “I don’t think I have extraordinary talent. With the conscious support of parents and the right teacher, almost anyone can be extraordinary at their instrument,” says Sagar, who is currently finishing his undergraduate degree in psychology.

 

A huge fan of American composer and pianist Leonard Bernstein, Sagar admires his musical world. “A world-class musician, performer and most importantly, an excellent educator, he believed in exposing people to music to give them a chance to explore their creativity and bring out their unique artistry. Bernstein was a great composer, showman and ambassador for the craft, who leaves behind a timeless legacy,” he elaborates.  It’s not that Indian music and art forms haven’t wooed him. “I have heard and tried Carnatic music. It takes getting used to. I can appreciate its aesthetic. I love watching Bharatnatyam and have tried it very unsuccessfully,” he recalls. Ask who his favourite Indian composer is, Sagar replies, “I love the music of Ravi Shankar and his daughters. I also love the voice of Sonu Nigam.” 

Sagar at one of his violin classes.Sagar at one of his violin classes.

Recalling how he became the AWO’s ‘chosen one’, Sagar explains, “Each year, the AWO selects an ‘Academy Player’ to experience playing in a world-class professional orchestra. This year, I was lucky to have been chosen.”  The youngster has been involved with the Sydney Youth Orchestras since 2012, playing as associate concertmaster for the Philharmonic Orchestra and Principal Second Violin for the Flagship orchestra under noted Australian conductors Matthew Coorey, Fabian Russell, Max McBride and Briger. 

It was during this time that his love for orchestral playing was fostered and paved the way for further opportunities such as playing with the Australian Youth Orchestra, Australian International Symphony Orchestra Institute, The Metropolitan Orchestra and at the Four Winds Festival in Bermagui. He has also performed in Europe as guest concertmaster of the Schweriner Jugendsinfonieorchester and Orchestre Symphonique du Conservatoire de Bordeaux. Sagar regularly plays in chamber music concerts throughout Sydney and conducts various string ensembles in public schools and teaches the violin.  “I feel honoured to have performed in a 100-piece orchestra, playing Richard Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben,” he recollects.

Music, he states, has changed him a lot as a person. “Music has introduced me to so many good friends and talented people. It’s a field where you can spend your whole life discovering the intricacies of compositions and your own unique playing style and interpretations. It has taken me to so many places I would never have dreamt of. It’s something I could never get sick of or leave behind.”  Sagar is pursuing a Bachelor’s of Psychology with Honours at Macquarie University and is currently assisting research on the effects of brain stimulation on musical improvisation. In the long run, he would like to combine his passion and career, “My plan is to administer and develop forms of musical therapy.” Other than performing and teaching, Sagar is a cricket fanatic and follows the Formula One auto racing. “I play video games, cricket and take flamenco dancing classes,” he adds. 

So, like his peers, does he have plans to join the world of glitz and glam – the film industry? “I would absolutely love to,” he says, adding, “But it’s not something I’ve actively worked towards. My dream is to live a fulfilling life by constantly learning, playing, and educating through my instrument.” Ask where he sees himself 10 years later and he says, “I’d be 31! I'd be working as a practitioner, as well as teaching and giving concerts.” 

What’s in store for Kerala? The excitement is high in the air. “Well, I’m not going to give away the surprise! Our Rep is Beethoven 7, Don Giovanni Overture and some opera with the stunning Caroline Meng. I know the audience will love it. Indians are highly passionate about music and art.”  The AWO concert, which is expected to be attended by over 2,500 persons, will be held at Grand Hyatt Kochi Bolgatty on Tuesday.  The proceeds from the concert would go towards the welfare of children on the autism spectrum at the Centre for Autism India in Thiruvalla.

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