The Vidyanjali Orchestra has provided live musical accompaniment for HTR’s 100+ Arangetrams, as well as numerous other performances throughout the history of the dance school. Presided over by Sudha Chandra Sekhar (Nattuvangam), the Vidyanjali Orchestra (fondly referred to as VOX) includes versatile and superbly trained musical artists in instruments such as violin, veena, mridangam, flute and more.
In the early days the orchestra was comprised of the Sudha aunty’s family. Her mother Jaya Doraiswamy or Ammamma as she was fondly known was on the veena and later on the harmonium. Sudha aunty’s sister in law Padma Krishnamoorthy usually accompanied on violin while her brothers Prakash, Suresh and Sri Doraiswamy accompanied on vocals, mridangam and nattuvangam. For the arangetrams in the US and Canada, while we had a very traditional line up, it was not uncommon to see Ammamma on keyboards and Jim Garnham on the guitar.
We have had guest vocalists such as the Late Vasantha Srinivasan, Kalaimamani Radha Bhadri, Malini Rengaswami, Uma Kher, Anjali Fluker, Krithika Rajkumar, and Chitra Narayan join the orchestra on several occasions. We have also had Radhika Vadari play the veena and Arjun Soorya play the sarod in the orchestra. In previous years we have had other artists such as Narayan Raman, Srikant and Lakshmi Venkatraman, Bhargavi Prabhu, Toronto A. Jayadevan, Mahesh Iyer, Jaishankar Balan, Sandhya Srinath and Sahana Jaishankar, also play violin in the orchestra. On flute we have had Dr. Ram Nath, Dr. Sunitha Grandhee, Dr. Sree Nilakanta, Flute Raman, Anirudh Sridhar and Sreeragam Sarma join the orchestra on occasion.
VOX under the guidance of Sudha aunty has been very generous and open and always encouraged new and younger artistes so that they may carry on the tradition.
Additionally, VOX is proud to have our very own in-house lyricist and composer, Gopal Venkatraman. Gopal began as our vocalist, but with his extensive background in Carnatic music and his deep understanding for the spiritual context of dance items, began composing for HTR in 1994. His first Thillana in Ragam Kalavati premiered at HTR’s 35th Arangetram. Since then he has composed beautiful original Thillanas for many of the Arangetram students, as well as Sabdams, Padams, Varnams and more.
The VOX team is available for Arangetrams, Performances, Original Dance Ballet Compositions and more all over North America and even overseas. For more information please contact Hindu Temple Rhythms.
GURU SUDHA CHANDRA SEKHAR – Nattuvangam/Vocals
Our Nattuvanaar, Guru Smt. Sudha Chandra Sekhar’s introduction to Carnatic music was from her mother Smt. Jaya Doraiswamy. Her subsequent training was from M.S. Narayanaswamy, and later under Bhaskara Bhagavathar in Bombay. Her advanced training was under Swaminatha Bhagavathar of Tiruchi brothers. She learned nattuvangam and dance music from Guru Govindaraja Pillai, Guru Mahalingam Pillai and Guru Kuppiah Pillai. She learnt Hindustani music from Prof. Ghinde of Vallabh Sangeet Vidyalaya. She has composed several songs in praise of Hindu deities and orchestrated several full-length dance dramas
SRI VIDYA CHANDRA SEKHAR – Vocals
Sri Vidya Chandra Sekhar, fondly known as Diya, holds 2 World Records for Longest Solo Classical Dance Performance. Vidya has been a performing singer since the age of 5! From a very young age, she has performed in many events in the US, Canada, India and Europe, supporting dancers of various dance styles. She has had years of vigorous and tireless training under the supervision of her renowned dancing mother Sudha Chandra sekhar and grandmother jaya Doraiswamy, as well as the Grand Masters of Tiruvidaimarudur technique from Sri Rajarajeshwari Bharata Natya Kala Mandir – Sri T.K. Mahalingam Pillai, and his father, Bharata Vidwan Sri T.K. Kuppiah Pillai. Subsequently, she learnt performance skills for conducting Bharanatyam under great stalwarts like Guru Mahalingam Pillai.
She also worked under artistes like Hema Joshi, Shubhangi Deshpande, Madurai Sundar and is presently under the tutelage of Hariharan. Vidya has been the lead vocalist of the Vidyanjali orchestra for over 30 years. Being a dancer herself, Vidya blends her passion for classical and light-classical music, and often weaves in story-telling into her renditions of these ancient and original songs to enhance the audience experience. She currently lives in Seattle and works for Microsoft Corporation.
GOPAL VENKATRAMAN – Vocals/Composer
Gopal Venkataraman is a renowned devotional and dance music composer and Bharatanatyam recital vocalist. He has been writing, composing and performing vocal music for the Vidyanjali Orchestra since 1992. He hails from a family that boasts one of India’s foremost Bharatanatyam Abhinaya exponents, the late Padmabhushan Smt. Kalanidhi Narayanan, and also got his initial music training at a young age from his aunt, the late Smt. Vijayalakshmi Sitharaman in Chennai. Since then, he has grown to author many devotional songs and items specially for Bharatanatyam and perform them live. He has written many pada varNams, padams, shabdams, thillanas for Bharatanatyam recitals and arangetrams. To date he has written 62 thillanas alone for arangetrams. He has also written full length dance dramas, such as the Hindu Temple Rhythms presentation of “Daksha Yagnam”, “Sita Swayamvaram” and “Origins of Dance”. He currently teaches Carnatic Vocal Music and keyboard to his students and works for Caesars Entertainment, in Las Vegas.
PRABHA THAYALAN – Veena
Vainika Prabha Thayalan started her formal music training at the age of seven in Sri Lanka. She joined Kalakshetra College of Fine Arts in 1990 and learned vocal music and veena. Later she joined the Music Academy of Madras and received training under Sangeetha Kalanidhi B. Rajam Iyer. She had her vocal arangetram in 1994. She has taken part in several music programs on stage, TV and Radio in India, Sri Lanka and North America. She has been playing the veena for Vidyanjali Orchestra for many years. Prabha has learned Bharathanatyam under Smt. Thripurasundhari Yoganantham, and is now continuing her Bharathanatyam training in Toronto.
AKSHAYA RAJKUMAR – Violin
Akshaya Rajkumar was initiated into the art of Carnatic vocal and violin music by Smt. Kalpana Venkat at the age of five and has been learning both for the past seventeen years. She has also received training from Smt. Bhargavi Prabhu of Michigan and is currently learning from Shri. Vittal Ramamurthy of Chennai, a disciple of Padma Bhushan Shri Lalgudi Jayaraman. She has meritoriously participated in many violin and vocal music competitions including the Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana & Samagana Heritage Foundation. She has been providing vocal and violin support for many dance performances in Michigan and around the United States since she was 14. She was recently a featured violinist in the Chinmaya Mission Yuva Rhythms studio album “Jagat Janani” and has also performed with Tamil playback singer, Krish. In addition to Carnatic violin, Akshaya has trained in Western violin and the Clarinet. She has also been learning Bharata Natyam under the tutelage of Smt. Sudha Chandra Sekhar since the age of three. She is also a former Distinguished Young Woman of Oakland County and Miss Malayalee North America. Akshaya studied Industrial & Operations Engineering at University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and is pursuing a career in supply chain management.
G.S. RAJAN – Flute
G.S. Rajan is an eminent world music composer, a popular and sought after flautist of raaga music and a senior arts administrator. He learned to play the flute under H Ramachandra Sastri, one of the last representatives of the Sarabha Sastri baani. Rajan’s creative expression over nearly three decades has taken diverse musical forms. He has composed numerous songs in Hindi, Malayalam, and Tamil; choral music; bhajans; music for church choirs; devotional songs; music for Indian classical and modern dance, plays , films and documentaries; sound and light shows, music videos and thematic compositions. He has received many awards and honors for his contribution to the field of performing arts. A former deputy secretary with the Government of India, Rajan moved to Atlanta a year back. Recently in March 2014, Rajan received the ”Akademi Award” from Government of Kerala.
S. JEYASINGHAM – Mridangam
S. Jeyasingham was introduced to the art of playing mridangam at the age of 10 under the tutelage of Vidwan P. Sinnarasa in Sri Lanka. He started playing for concerts at 15 years and has taught the theory and practice of mridangam in a number of music academies in Sri Lanka. He has accompanied many well-known artists and played extensively for Bharatnatyam and Kuchipudi. He also serves as an adjunct faculty with the music department of Oakland University, Michigan where he teaches mridangam. A versatile percussionist, talented in playing tabla, ganjira, konnakol and morsing, Jeyasingham was awarded the title of “Mridanga Ilavarasan” (prince of percussion) by the late actress and dancer Padmini Ramachandran. He holds a Master’s degree in aerospace engineering and is presently working as an engineer for FCA.
INDRESH MAKHTAL – Mridangam
Indiresh Maktal started learning Mridangam at the age of 9 from “Gaanakalaabhooshana” Sri.K.N. Krishnamurthy of Bangalore. He continued learning from Sri. R. Krishna Murthy from the school of Sri.Palaghat Kunju Mani. Under his guidance, he gained different aspects of playing Mridangam along with some aspects of vocal music. In 1976, he came under the influence of “Padmashri” Sri. Yella Venkateswara Rao, and received advanced training under him. When he finished his engineering undergraduate education, he started learning vocal music also from Sri.Ramana Kumar (a deciple of Balamurali Krishna). He has been a Yuvavani Artist for Mysore Aakashavani (1978-1983). He has accompanied many musicians like T.R.Subrahmanyam, T.K Govindarao, Dr.Ramana Kumar, Bangalore S.Shankar, to name a few. Currently he works in the IT industry. He teaches vocal music and Mridangam in ‘Kalaakrithi school of Music’ in Troy, MI area.
ANJALI FLUKER – Vocals and Nattuvangam
Anjali who is Sudha aunty’s 2nd daughter began dancing Bharata Natyam as soon as she took her first steps, under the watchful eyes of her mother, Anjali began her performance career at an early age and throughout the years, performed in the U.S., Canada and India with Hindu Temple Rhythms, the Indian dance school founded by her grandparents. Anjali and her husband, Marlon Fluker, relocated to Orlando, Florida in 2007, where she works for a prominent business news publication. She conducted her first Bharata Natyam Arangetram on July 31, 2016, with a live orchestra in Sanford, Florida, for her student, Aishwarya. She has presented a total of 11 students in their debut recitals in Florida and Louisiana, serving as lead singer, nattuvanar (playing the traditional cymbals to keep time with the dancer and drummer) and relaying detailed explanations during the performance.
M.S. SUKHI – Mridangam
M.S.Sukhi holds a post graduate diploma for Bharathanatyam from Kalakshetra. He is a versatile, multi-faceted artist of Mridangam, Nattuvangam and classical music. He is a disciple of Sri R.Ramesh in the Guru Karaikudi Mani style of Mridangam playing. He is an established Mridangam artist of merit and is known for his crisp rendering of rhythmic innovations and intricate, vibrant techniques in Mridangam playing. He has learnt Carnatic vocal from Vairamangalam Lakshminarayanan and T.V.Ramprasad. He is also an established music composer and has composed several musical compositions for dance which have been released commercially and has been critically acclaimed. He tours extensively with leading dancers and musicians throughout the US, Europe, UK, Australia, Japan and Singapore. He is one of the much-sought-after musicians in the field of classical dance and music in India.
V.K. RAMAN – Flute
Flute Raman’s first Guru was Sri AV Prakash who hails from a musical family from Mysore . Raman had several years of training with Sri AV Prakash. He had his arangetram at the age of 13. Later he had advanced intensive training with Dr N Ramani and was blessed to get guidance from the Flute wizard TR Mahalingam. During his Bangalore days at All India Radio he had guidance from his favorite flautist KS Gopalakrishnan.
Besides being a Carnatic flautist, he is also a composer, educator collaborator, producer and entrepreneur. He has an app for his Carnatic lessons and concerts. Most recently he is the first Indian Flautist to be featured in the Oklahoma symphony orchestra in 2019.
SREERAGAM SARMA – Flute
Sreeragam Sarma started playing the Indian flute at the age of 7 under the tutelage of Smt. Sunitha Grandhee, a disciple of Mayawaram Saraswati and Dr. N. Ramani. He completed his flute arangetram in 2014 and did his advanced Flute with Shri K. Bhaskaran from Chennai, a disciple of Mayawaram Saraswati. He is currently learning from GS Rajan. Sree has been hearing the sounds of Sudha Aunty’s nattuvaungum from the womb and grown up in Seneca while his sister and mother danced. He debuted with the Vidyanjali Orchestra for Sudha Aunty’s 90th arangetram in 2012. Sree also plays the Western flute, picolo and saxophone.