Some seven years ago, vocalist Vidya Kalyanaraman’s name started appearing frequently in programme announcements of city sabha-s not only during the December season but off-season too. Vidya was then a sixteen-year old with enormous talent and self assurance. She was an active member of the Issai Mazhalai troupe and Ramjhi encouraged her a great deal as she was then the troupe’s star performer.
Vidya comes from a middle class family. Her maternal grandmother could play the veena, and her parents were interested in music. She started learning from Padma Sandilyan at the age of six. To her guru’s astonishment, Vidya proved to be an exceptionally bright and diligent girl who could grasp all that was taught to her and more. The apprenticeship continued for ten years till Padma sent her for advanced lessons in 2005 to Suguna Varadachari. Since then, Vidya has been in Suguna’s care and has frequently provided vocal support to her guru in her concerts. Vidya has learnt more than a thousand musical pieces from her two guru-s ranging from varnam-s, kriti-s and javali-s to difficult pallavi-s. It includes compositions of pre-trinity composers to modern ones. Few in her age group can boast of such a formidable repertoire. Though Vidya does not have a powerful voice, her music has the requisite ‘azhuttam’ (clarity) and depth. Her voice is quite melodious and facile.
As she was a student of PSBB school, its sister organisation Bharat Kalachar granted her a scholarship to study music for six years from 1999. The prizes, awards and titles won by her are many. She bagged the Young Achiever award from Anna University in 2003. Winning the first prize in the AIR competition in 2005 automatically placed her in the B grade – from which she upgraded herself to B-High. She has won a couple of tambura prizes, and awards from the Indian Fine Arts Society (IFAS) in 2006 and 2007. She regularly won prizes for her performances at Sri Krishna Gana Sabha’s Gokulashtami series in 2005, 2007 and 2008. Some of the titles conferred on her are Yuva Kala Vipanchee (2008), Sangeeta Bhaskara (2008) Bharata Kala Ratna (2008) and Yuva Kala Bharati (2010). She is the recipient of a Central Government scholarship to pursue music.
Vidya is blessed with leadership qualities. While in her teens, she was the president of the Youth Association for Classical Music (YACM) from 2005 to 2008. She anchored several music shows in various TV channels. She performs in all the city sabha-s with many repeat programmes in institutions such as the Music Academy, IFAS and SKGS.
Vidya has travelled widely across India on concert tours. She has also performed in Singapore, Malaysia, the U.S.A. and Canada. She is a familiar figure at the Cleveland Tyagaraja Aradhana Festival, having performed there for three years.
Vidya has passed her Bachelors’ and Masters’ degrees in music from Madras University and has plans to proceed to the doctoral level. Happily married, she receives total support from her husband and in-laws in her musical pursuits.