Sikkil Gurucharan – One of the successful Rulers in the World of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa!

Sikkil C. Gurucharan is among the foremost young performing musicians of Carnatic music in India today. He is the grandson of Sikkil Kunjumani, elder of the internationally acclaimed flautists the Sikkil Sisters. Gurucharan has been under the tutelage Vaigal Shri S. Gnanaskandan and is currently being mentored by Shri B. Krishnamurthy. He is an ‘A’ grade All India Radio artist. The magazine India Today featured him among 35 Game Changers Under 35 in India, a list of young achievers from different walks of life.

Gurucharan has a Master’s Degree in Financial Management and is a representation of the Indian youth that is confident of taking up careers such as Indian Music as a profession. Gurucharan’s insights are not restrictive to people looking at taking music as a full-time option, but would be useful  for anyone trying to explore an alternate , offbeat profession.

Here are the excerpts of the interview where he talks about mentorship, how practicing Indian art forms helps in one’s professional life and how taking up non stereotypical career  can influence one’s ! Read on and if you would like to take the plunge into doing something you love – do it rightway !

Welcome to Tell us about your schooling, college and family.

I did my schooling at Vidya Mandir in Chennai. I think I am one of the fortunate few to get admission in an institution where music was part and parcel of the curriculum. I did my Bachelor’s Degree at Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda College,Chennai. I had dreamt of becoming a student of this college since my 11th grade because of its impressive alumni. The alumni of this college had become stars in the field of music, sports and other extracurricular activities. After graduation I enrolled myself for the twinning program of Pondicherry University and Loyola College and got the Master’s Degree in Financial Management in 2004. Almost every second member in my family had taken up playing the flute. Hence they insisted that at least I should pursue a different art form like singing. The kind of support and assistance my family gave me from a very young age was the driving force for me to take up Carnatic music as my career

What should one look for in a mentor – particularly in an art form like Music?  What were the most admirable qualities in your Guru?

My Guru, Sri Gnanaskandan was a stickler for time. He never used to tolerate any delays – whether it is coming to class, singing a song, or a concert. His stint at the AIR as a producer contributed to this, I guess. His straight forward attitude was also an admirable quality. My grandmothers were a lovely bunch. They know how to bring out the best in you. With love and affection! I miss Kunjumani patti now.

It is best for a student not to look for anything particular in a guru. If that is the case, it becomes more like a person shopping in a departmental store where he/she gets into the mentality of getting exactly what they want from the Guru while the situation is supposed to be the contrary. A true Guru will know the student in and out and know what is best for them.

Tell us about India Today featuring you among 35 Game Changers Under 35 in India.

All these are by the grace of God. Awards and accolades are but indicators of the fact that you have miles to go. India Today’s survey that featured me as the South Indian musician in the list of game changers for the year 2010 was a pleasant surprise to me. It felt great to be chosen as a young achiever and it inspires me to go further.

How can the skills from musical training ( or any art form) be applied for a student’s professional life?

Music inspires a lot of people to be more creative and artistic in his/her approach to everything in life. Life becomes more systematic due to constant practice and hard work. Once they start performing before a bunch of people, their responsibility increases. What they do on stage is theirs to claim. So they become more responsible and also more confident in facing an audience. There are several ways in which a sincere student of music will gain in professional life too.

What are the different options for a student trained in music (both classical and western) as a career option?

There are several options like becoming a performing artist, a musicologist or a music professor. With the advent of technology today, a person trained in music can definitely make his/her mark in a big way provided they use their talent and resources in a diligent way.

How can we promote programs based on traditional Indian classical music? What is your take on reality shows that promote music?

Gurucharan at a concert

The first task is to remove the impression that traditional music is only for a certain elite group of people. Carnatic music should be made more secular and available for all people alike. Another important task at hand is for the performer to demystify some basic aspects of classical music to make the audience appreciate the art form better.

The biggest advantage of reality shows is recognition. Your face gets seen by millions of people repeatedly. That might also become detrimental in case the performance is not upto the mark. The challenge before the participants is to sustain the fame earned through these shows in a proper manner.

What kind of innovation would you like to bring in Indian music to keep the tradition alive?

What was once an innovation is today a part of our age-old tradition. The tradition was alive before us, evolving with changes that were brought to it gradually by the musicians. And it is more than just alive today with hundreds and thousands of listeners thronging Chennai every December plus numerous festivals that take place all over the world. It will flourish forever, no matter what. Any innovative measure only reinforces the fact that the system is so classical and deep-rooted that it can imbibe them all and still retain its core component of melody and rhythm. I believe that the deeper you delve into history, the more ways you will unearth to enhance yourself. I am trying to strike a balance between modernity and tradition, by staying true to the fundamentals.

If you were to mentor someone what will be your advice for them to be a successful ?

Hard work, dedication and devotion to the Guru. These three things will automatically ensure that success follows. All along these, perseverance plays an important role. It is important that one has confidence in his ability and continuously works on improving and upgrading his knowledge! Once the audience likes what you present, there is no stopping you.

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