12628586_919155108167709_2231900511043166992_oI’ve known, loved and worked with Ava Dudani since my first semester at Berklee in 2014. If you’ve lived in Boston, chances are, you do too! An active performer and songwriter, Ava is an 8th semester Professional Music major focusing on Music Education and Songwriting sits down with me to share her story.

So, how did this is all start?

I’ve always known that I wanted to be a musician. I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember and playing piano since I was very small. I fell in love with Alicia Keys as a little kid and modeled myself after her for most of my childhood. I started writing songs around the age of thirteen but I never performed one publicly until I was in high school. I was very fortunate to attend Boston Arts Academy, Boston’s only performing and visual arts high school. There, I mainly studied jazz but I was also exploring my own interests in pop and R&B as well.

Wow! So what brought you to the Indian Ensemble then?

I’ve known Annette Phillip since I was in high school, when I was part of her city music ensemble. She asked me if I was interested in participating in the Berklee Indian Ensemble and I did it for no other reason than wanting to try something new. Little did I know that I was walking into a project that I would love so much, and would become such a success.

You’ve been with this ensemble for almost three years! What are some of the learnings you’d want to share?

I don’t think I’ve ever been challenged technically as a musician in any other ensemble, or class at Berklee. When singing Indian music, vocalists truly have to think like instrumentalists. It is just not enough to just know the lyrics and be able to interpret them; we deal with as many complex rhythms, harmonies, and scales as any member of the band does.

The Berklee Indian Ensemble has not only enhanced my growth as a musician, but it has also been a very important step for me in figuring out my identity as an Indian, an American, and a citizen of the world. It has been a tremendously empowering experience for me to be surrounded by a group of people who share many aspects of my background and my perspective. I’ve also been humbled from learning a style of music that I’ve never tried before.

Annette has also been an extremely powerful role model for me as a female bandleader. From watching her direct the band and the choir with assertiveness and persistence, with a touch of perfectionism, as well as treating us with kindness, respect, and love, I’ve learned what it takes to be a leader and a creative visionary.

Any favorite moments?

My favorite memory with the Berklee Indian Ensemble is easily standing on the Symphony Hall stage with A.R Rahman only a few yards away from me, standing on the exact same stage. It was mind-blowing for me to be on stage with a musician who I have known and idolized for most of my life.

Any parting words to our readers?

I’m so glad that the Berklee Indian Ensemble was a part of my college experience and I recommend trying it out to any Berklee student.


Purvaa Sampath