WATERVILLE — The Waterville Senior High School auditorium was awash Friday afternoon in the sounds of India as choral, orchestra and band students performed with Srinivas Krishnan, a world-renowned master percussionist from India who had worked with them all week.

Krishnan, 52, taught the students about music from other cultures, cooked and treated them to Indian food and told stories; but equally as important, he enlightened them about life and humanity, according to the students.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” said sophomore Soren Nyhus, 15, a cellist in the school orchestra. “It’s really good to see the different musical perspectives and different ways he looks at music.”

Nyhus, who hopes to attend college and pursue a music-related career, arranged two pieces written by Academy Award-winning composer A.R. Rahman, a good friend of Krishnan’s who wrote the music to the film “Slumdog Millionaire.” The pieces, Vellai Pookal and Khwaja Mere Khwaja, were performed by the students Friday.

Seniors and trombonists Amy Fallaw, 18, and Adam Barre, 17, were impressed that during the time Krishnan spent with the students, he talked to them, listened and spoke philosophically about sharing and being inclusive.

“I think he gave us a lot — how to look at situations in life,” Fallaw said. “He’s really wise but also so fun.”


Barre, the son of school band director Sue Barre, said Krishnan was inspiring.

“He gave us a lot of outlook on life. I think that something we got to learn this week — that we would not otherwise — was seeing another culture, firsthand, and that’s pretty cool.”

Krishnan has worked with students at institutions such as Duke University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and is artist-in-residence at Miami University in Ohio, where in October he received the university’s President’s Medal for his work at the school. He also holds a master’s degree in environmental science from Miami.

In Chennai, India, where he lives with his wife, he works with students at Rahman’s multidisciplinary music education center, KM Music Conservatory.

He did not come to Waterville by accident. While working four years ago at the University of Southern Maine, he met Sam Lyons, then a music education major whose focus was the violin. The provost at the time was Michael Stevenson, who drove Krishnan to Waterville for this trip.

“In college, I hung on every word he (Krishnan) said, and it was very motivating,” Lyons said Friday.


Now the orchestra director for students in grades four through 12 in Waterville public schools, Lyons had kept in touch with Krishnan over the years and spent last summer with him in India, where he (Lyons) taught underprivileged children in the Sunshine String Orchestra at Rahman’s music center. Lyons invited Krishnan to come to Waterville to work with students in the community and Krishnan accepted.

After Friday’s concert at the school, Krishnan said he was touched by the reception the students and community in general had given him and he hopes to return to Waterville.

“In times like this when the world is living in doubt, I am very convinced it is important to share,” he said, adding that the students welcomed him immediately and were nonjudgmental, although his music and traditions were different from theirs.

“They embraced me unconditionally,” he said. “Every day they came on time. That says something about their spirit. Nothing works one way in life. It has to be a two-way street. They are a very enlightened group of kids. If they have more opportunities, the sky’s the limit for them to do things.”

Krishnan said he is fortunate to have grown up in an ancient and evolved culture — of which he is proud.

“I grew up in a Jesuit education,” he said. “My mother was orthodox Hindu. I went through an entire 16 years of life in Jesuit school.”


In the auditorium Friday, the band, chorus and orchestra performed several pieces conducted by Sue Barre, Lyons and chorus director Ciara Hargrove. Krishnan sang songs of India, in long, soulful notes that touched the audience of mostly students, but also teachers, staff and area residents. The final piece, Maa Tujhe Salaam, about the motherland, drew loud applause.

Krishnan said he wanted to share his gratitude and appreciation with the students for their dedication and commitment. He said that they exuded a passion that he would take back to India with him. As part of his visit, he also worked with Colby College musicians and others from the community, and they performed earlier in the week. He cooked a dinner for 20 Waterville students at the home of Joe and Tiffany Lopes, whose daughter, Katie, is a high school student and cellist in the school orchestra.

Sue Barre, the band director, said the week with Krishnan had been great for students, staff and the community.

“It’s unbelievable,” she said. “It’s been a wonderful week. He has brought the world to our students, because not all of our students can travel to places like India. He’s brought new culture, new meaning to how music is an international language.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247


Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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