We supported Preetha to experience a month of intensive musical study in Kolkata 

Following her passion for violin 

Preetha Narayanan cannot remember a time when she wasn’t either playing or listening to a violin. My mum moved to the US from India and in our cultural community, music is very important. She started my brother on violin and so when I was born, I was hearing it. By the time I was two and a half, I had already started playing.”

Despite describing music as an, anchor,” throughout all her childhood, it wasn’t the norm to be a professional musician in Preetha’s family. They were however always supportive of the fact that this was what she wanted to pursue and her passion for the violin has guided her decisions every step of the way.

I never knew I was going to be a professional violinist. I was always just pursuing something that I was curious about. Music took me to India when I had finished studying in the US and after that I pursued an opportunity to come to England. Many years later, this is what I do.”

Inspired to learn 

Throughout her career Preetha has spent a lot of time learning from and with other musicians but in more recent years, as her professional practice has developed, she hasn’t had that kind of direct mentoring. During COVID, she took some classes online to top up her knowledge but still felt something was missing.

Things changed in 2022 when she was working with an Indian classical musician who spoke to her about a mentor he’d met in Kolkata. Preetha listened to the way he described the teacher’s knowledge and felt it sounded exactly right for her. In that moment she felt very inspired to learn.

I’m from Chennai but had never been to Kolkata or studied North Indian music before. His teacher sounded brilliant, so I reached out to see if he’d be willing to work with me. My plan was to then spend a month in a city I didn’t know and make studying music the centre of the trip.

Preetha applied for support to make the trip happen and was successful. When I was completing the application, I just wrote from my heart. My project seemed like a perfect fit with Help Musicians because I’m a professional musician looking to develop my practice.”


Learning in Kolkata 

Reflecting on the time she spent in Kolkata, Preetha found the month to be a life-changing experience. I really can’t describe how much my time in India was above and beyond what I expected. Post-pandemic that kind of immersive practice was disappearing but to go back to my craft in a focused way was so exciting.”

She spent one month working alongside her mentor Prattyush Banerjee having classes every other day, using her in-between day to practice and digest what she’d been learning. Preetha is in little doubt that Prattyush’s teaching style was essential in the overall success of her trip.

Prattyush was open minded, forward thinking and also very generous with his time. I’ve had teachers in the past where you’re at their beck and call, whereas this time I knew every other day we were going to have a class. That’s very generous of a professional musician to give so much time to a student. I was really honoured.”

Upon returning home, Preetha felt transformed by her experience in Kolkata. For a month, she’d been challenged and able to hone her craft every day. 

Help Musicians have been so helpful to see creative ideas through and to support possibilities to develop my professional practice. My sole aim visiting India was to play and to learn. I worked hard, but it paid off.

New projects 

When she was originally planning her month in Kolkata, Preetha didn’t think of anywhere else to apply for support aside from Help Musicians. The ease of the application process, the human touch the charity provides and the sense of support she had felt from previous interactions meant she thought Help Musicians’ support would be perfect for her plans.

The time Preetha spent in India was important for many of her long-term creative visions, one of which is the aim to learn and perform a traditional Indian classical concert.

I didn’t think of other organisations because I was aware of Help Musicians. If you do other applications, it’s not easy to apply but the charity seemed like the perfect fit in my head.

This is something of a change of direction for Preetha because ordinarily she would have wanted to go and absorb an element of Indian music to perform in a contemporary context.

There are close friends of mine who have studied Indian classical music and we are making time to practice together. My hope is that we’ll be able to perform some concerts later in the future. There are a few opportunities that have already come up.”