East meets West at Wayzata High (WITH VIDEO)

Sun Sailor video by Jason Jenkins

World-class Indian musician joins school orchestras for concert

Wayzata High School students rehearse with Indian musician Chitravina Ravikiran. The world-class musician visited the school March 21 for a one-day residency and a performance with the school’s chamber and string orchestras. (Sun Sailor photo by Jason Jenkins)
Wayzata High School students rehearse with Indian musician Chitravina Ravikiran. The world-class musician visited the school March 21 for a one-day residency and a performance with the school’s chamber and string orchestras. (Sun Sailor photo by Jason Jenkins)

Wayzata High School chamber and string orchestra students were recently treated to a special visit from a world-class artist.

Indian musician Chitravina Ravikiran visited the school March 21 between tour stops in Texas and Wisconsin. In the morning, Ravikiran rehearsed with students. He returned in the evening to take part in a special concert. Prior to the visit, the musician had only interacted with the students via Skype.

Wayzata High music teacher Mark Gitch said it was a student, who had been taking private lessons with Ravikiran, who suggested bringing him in to collaborate with the school’s orchestras.

“This is the first time we’ve brought in a guest of this stature, and certainly in this genre and in this style,” Gitch said.

Wayzata High School students rehearse with Indian musician Chitravina Ravikiran. The world-class musician visited the school March 21 for a one-day residency and a performance with the school’s chamber and string orchestras. (Sun Sailor photo by Jason Jenkins)
Wayzata High School students rehearse with Indian musician Chitravina Ravikiran. The world-class musician visited the school March 21 for a one-day residency and a performance with the school’s chamber and string orchestras. (Sun Sailor photo by Jason Jenkins)

Growing up, Ravikiran was hailed as a child prodigy. At the age of 2, he was able to identify and render 325 ragas (melodic scales) and 175 talas (rhythmic cycles). Under the guidance of his father, maestro Chitravina Narasimhan, he started giving vocal concerts at the age of 5 and began playing the chitravina, a 21-stringed fretless lute, when he was 10. And ever since, the chitravina has remained Ravikiran’s primary instrument.

Today, Ravikiran has more than 700 compositions to his credit and a long list of accomplishments.

Along with a lifetime of musical mastery, Ravikiran brought with him to Wayzata the method of Melharmony. The avant-garde form of composing, created by Ravikiran in 2000, is a method that fuses the ancient melodic system of Indian classical music with the notation and instrumentation of Western symphony orchestras.

“Melharmony’s not just a style. It’s more a system of music, which actually integrates the Eastern and Western rules as well as aesthetics,” Ravikiran said.

Music teacher Mark Gitch talks with Indian musician Chitravina Ravikiran during a rehearsal March 21 at Wayzata High School. (Sun Sailor photo by Jason Jenkins)
Music teacher Mark Gitch talks with Indian musician Chitravina Ravikiran during a rehearsal March 21 at Wayzata High School. (Sun Sailor photo by Jason Jenkins)

For his concert at Wayzata High, Ravikiran joined student musicians for a concert intersecting Carnatic melody and European harmony. The performance also featured three arrangements by Ravikiran adapted from 18th- and 19th-century works of traditional Indian music.

Ravikiran said he regularly spends time collaborating with students in schools across the United States.

“I’m very, very passionate about this because this is a wonderful system in the American schools, where the children are exposed to some of the best works of their greatest classical composers. So, it’s nice to give them a world view of music in other parts, which goes to prove that the genius of man is about the same everywhere,” he said. “You can take different manifestations, but it’s still very much there in different parts of the world. And so, I try to create music, which is probably foreign to them, but in a language that they can understand.”

Wayzata High School students prepare for a special performance March 21 with world-class Indian musician Chitravina Ravikiran. (Submitted photo)
Wayzata High School students prepare for a special performance March 21 with world-class Indian musician Chitravina Ravikiran. (Submitted photo)

Wayzata High School senior Rachel Wyffels and junior Brandon Lai, who both play violin the school’s chamber orchestra, said their experience working with Ravikiran was rewarding because it introduced them to an entirely new system of music.

“It’s a different philosophy of pitch. It’s a totally different system,” Wyffels said.

“It’s really cool to be working with a world-class musician who’s introducing a new style of music to us that we’ve never played before,” Lai said.

To learn more, visit RavikiranMusic.com or MelharmonyMusic.com.

Contact Jason Jenkins at [email protected]