Interviewee: Ananya Radhakrishnan
Interviewer, Editor, Graphic Designer: Pat Sevikul
Hi! I’m Ananya Radhakrishnan and I’m a 17-year-old British Indian student, currently in sixth form in London. My greatest passion is music, specifically the cello, which I learn at Junior Guildhall school of Music and Drama.
How old were you when you first started getting into music and what has the journey been like since? How has it impacted your life?
I was 5 years old when I was first introduced to the violin, and 7 when I switched to the cello, so music has always been a huge part of my life, and also my identity. The cello is my release from schoolwork and other stressful aspects of life; however, it definitely can be challenging balancing it all and maintaining a high standard of playing.
What do you love most about music?
I love the accessibility of music in that there is something for everyone, and it can unite people in so many ways. I feel that music can evoke emotions unlike any other sensory experience, and can elevate other forms of art, such as films and pieces of writing.
What can music teach you that other subjects cannot?
Studying music is extremely challenging and teaches discipline through practice and patience. Picking up a new instrument is often daunting but can be so rewarding, hence I feel it is one of the most fulfilling subjects to study. I feel that it can also teach you to be kind to yourself and have self-belief. Some of the most successful musicians make mistakes onstage, but it is the confidence and connectedness they gain through discipline that allow them to continue seemingly unfazed.
What experiences and opportunities has music brought you?
Studying music has allowed me to connect with so many people who share my passions, and develop meaningful relationships based off of this deep appreciation for this type of art. Performance becomes extremely enjoyable when you are playing with the people you love, and I feel very grateful to have shared such experiences with others. They are invaluable.
How does the lack of representation of women, particularly women of colour, pursuing music affect young girls, and why is this important?
In my experience of being a British-Indian woman growing up between India and the UK, I can say that many young Indians are discouraged by their parents to study music at a higher level because it is seemingly a non-academic subject that does not guarantee success.
Women, who are already societally oppressed, face further restrictions on what they can and cannot study, as choice is seen as a privilege reserved for men. Of course, this is not true of all Indian households, as I for one come from a family that applauds female success in any field, and uplifts women. Times are changing, but there is definitely disparity that needs to be acknowledged. Musical success is extremely commendable, in that it is academically challenging as well as creatively stimulating, and young women of colour should not be deprived of these opportunities.
Musical success is extremely commendable, in that it is academically challenging as well as creatively stimulating, and young women of colour should not be deprived of these opportunities.
- Ananya Radhakrishnan
What are your thoughts on fixing the gender imbalance in the music industry and how do we solve this issue?
In my privileged experience of the classical music world, the problem seems to lie more in the underestimation of women, rather than an inherent lack of women. However, this is not to say that there isn’t a gender imbalance in the music industry.
In order to solve either of these issues, we need to listen to female musicians when they express dissatisfaction in their treatment. Sometimes, I too feel that I am underestimated and dismissed because people feel that I will not ‘fight back’ simply because I am a woman. There are instances where I have been given a lower rank in an orchestra, despite having the same qualifications as the man sat in front me, where I have not spoken up, because I feel that nothing will change. As a society we need to express to women that they will be listened to, and their problems will be acknowledged.
There are instances where I have been given a lower rank in an orchestra, despite having the same qualifications as the man sat in front me, where I have not spoken up, because I feel that nothing will change. As a society we need to express to women that they will be listened to, and their problems will be acknowledged.
- Ananya Radhakrishnan
Do you believe there are double standards in the music industry? If so, in what ways are women treated differently from men?
I definitely feel that there are double standards in the music industry, simply as a consumer of music. Female artists are expected to change their image and branding so much more than male artists, and a lot of critics focus more on the appearance and youth of female musicians than male. So many female artists are sexualised by the media at a young age, such as Britney Spears, and are expected to answer horrendously invasive questions, while simply trying to live their dreams of being the extremely talented performers they are. Women who write music about their bodies or success are viewed as narcissistic and superficial, however, men who do the same are viewed as confident.
Women who write music about their bodies or success are viewed as narcissistic and superficial, however, men who do the same are viewed as confident.
- Ananya Radhakrishnan
What challenges do you face as an aspiring musician?
As a musician who aims for high standards of performance, I find that I struggle to balance school and music. This is the typical issue of anyone with a passion, however, and I think it’s not too bad of a problem to have.
Regarding any misconceptions, sometimes people underestimate the high academic level of the subject, which can be frustrating, but is really an issue of lack of education around the subject, which can be solved.
How do we encourage more young people to pursue music?
Music needs to be taught better in schools, because although I love classical music and playing the cello, I understand that this can seem challenging and boring for others, so a wider curriculum I feel could draw in more students.
What change do you hope to see in the music industry in the future?
In an ideal world, I see better representation and a more diverse music industry, where artists are truly valued and appreciated by the media.
Thank you so much for this opportunity! These questions were really nice to reflect on the past 10 years of musicianship, and think about what comes next for the musical world.