We had the good fortune of connecting with Priyanka Venkatesh and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Priyanka, where are your from? We’d love to hear about how your background has played a role in who you are today?
As the child of Indian immigrants to the US, I grew up in a multicultural environment, with various different customs, norms, modes of being, and philosophical outlooks. As many children of immigrants can relate to, a diverse cultural situation can be incredibly enriching, yet at times also confusing. Desiring to forge my own clear identity out of my cultural milieu, I felt a deep attraction to my roots from an early age. In essence, the exploration and study of my roots came out of an existential need.
Much of my musical career is a natural manifestation of my cultural identity, which has taken shape after many years of this exploration. While trained as a Western classical violinist, I have also studied Carnatic (South Indian classical) violin, and currently in my doctorate work and career I am composing and performing compositions which artfully blend Indian and Western classical music. Alongside Western canonical works, I am also seeking to create awareness, respect, and love for Western art music which is deeply inspired by Indian musical traditions. And, in addition to Indian music, I have a love for various other musical traditions from around the world. My piano trio, Trio Scarlet, focuses on the art music of Spain and Latin America, particularly the music of Piazzolla and the tango. I have also performed music inspired by the Turkish maqaam, and the Persian daastgaah. My desire is to foster intercultural curiosity, understanding, and love though performance…in essence, unite the world through sound! I love to share my music with children, especially in underprivileged areas, as I think awareness of other cultures should begin at an early age. I’ve also seen the way kids light up when they are surrounded by music, and being able to share positive energy is incredibly motivating.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I see the human being as essentially a beautiful piece of music. Music is vibrational energy with a pulse. In our essence, we are vibrational energy, of which our heartbeat is the pulse. While at first thought this may sound a bit hippie…it’s true! We are living works of art. In each performance I strive to invite my audiences to remember this truth. A musical performance is a time for my audience and me to come together and escape into a space of visceral beauty and passion. It is a spiritual experience for me, and hopefully my audience too. With my mother being a meditation teacher, and having explored meditation for most of my adult life, I have naturally incorporated meditation into many of my performances, often beginning a performance with a meditation. It’s a perfect way to prepare oneself for the healing power of music. I also love teaching music at all levels, both violin and piano, and even when I teach students, in addition to focusing on musical technique and artistry, I teach about body awareness and centering. This can help us perform our best, whether on stage or in life.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I’m a huge arts and culture person, so I would begin the tour with a trip to LACMA and then to the Getty. Art often inspires my music. I especially love the Special Collections at the Getty and am always curious to know what they have recently acquired. After I would definitely head to the Getty Villa…I love its vibe. Disney Concert Hall and the Hollywood Bowl should also be on the list. The rest of the time I would spend enjoying the beaches and just roaming around DTLA, visiting Pitchoun for coffee and the Salt and Straw for ice cream. Of course, the trip would not be complete without a stop at the Last Bookstore.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My parents have played a huge role in my becoming the person I am today. They’ve been with me through thick and thin, and I’m so incredibly thankful for all their support. I also want to thank all of my music teachers, especially my first true violin teacher, Michael Voronel. He was selfless in sharing all he knew with me. My most recent teachers, Professor Movses Pogossian and Professor Robert Winter at UCLA have also supported me immensely throughout my doctorate work, helping me grow as an artist and thinker. I am so grateful to all of them.
Photo Credits to Martin Chalifour and Luna Suzuki