Viswa Subbaraman

Opera and Orchestra Conductor

Mr. Subbaraman Goes to Washington (Part 2)

Much like a traditional American Diwali event, the event had some great musicians. Shankar Tucker performed a work that he wrote after studying Carnatic music in India. He and his combo also performed with Vandhana and Vidya Iyer, and the fusion of western and Carnatic music was wonderful. (The only thing missing were the nervous 14 year olds who were being forced to do some random Bollywood-esque dance by their parents!) There were a number of interesting speakers at the event. I loved hearing Ambassador Nirupama Rao. I have to admit that I was tickled to hear her mention Jimmy Fallon in her address to the room. I also enjoyed how she talked about the Indian-American community with pride. You don’t always hear that from Indians. I think as a musician, I hear the ABCD bit too much, so the pride in her speech was truly welcome.

My favorite speech had to be Vice President Biden’s speech. It was nice to hear him when the cameras were off and the reporters weren’t around. He was genuinely funny and thoughtful. I felt like he truly was interested in the Indian community. I thought it was especially thoughtful when hearing his words about the Wisconsin Gurdwar shooting. I know many in the Indian community have felt that it never got the press it deserved and there was no move to greater understanding in the same way as perhaps happened after the Colorado movie theater shooting. To hear the Vice President address it with such a sense of sympathy was moving.

After the Vice President spoke, he was kind enough to shake hands and take pictures with all of us! The honest truth is that I thought it would be a relatively quick event to make the Indian community feel good about the President. The honest truth was that it wasn’t a token event. I felt truly honored to be there. The entire event lasted 3 hours – complete with Indian sweets!

I’ve been thinking about this event for a week now. I have started writing this numerous times over the week, and it’s just now that I feel that I can put my feelings on paper. Many of my feelings behind this trip revolve around the past few years. Seven years ago, I was working in Paris and meeting so many amazing people. I spent rehearsals with Maestro Masur, Riccardo Muti, and Sir Colin Davis, and I felt that I was on top of the world. I then came to Houston and started an opera company because I have always felt that the great conductors all conducted opera and orchestra. In the past 6 years, I discovered why - there are very few things that improve your conducting like working with opera. (At least for me, it's been the best possible conductor training I could have had).  Even though my conducting had improved, I felt that nothing really developed either personally or career-wise.

This year has been a huge shift. The work seems to have paid off. I can’t be more excited about taking over the helm of the Skylight Music Theatre in Milwaukee. I was honored to go to Indiaspora. It was an amazing growth experience to speak at TEDxHouston. I am honored to count people like Raghava KK, Madhulika Sikka, Anurima Bhargava, Gautam Raghavan, Maneet Chauhan, et. al. as friends. It has really been amazing.

The icing on the case, however, was this invite to the White House. After slogging away and sacrificing to build Opera Vista with no sense of where my life was going, my father’s son was invited to the White House. How can you put those feelings in words? I feel about as blessed as one person could feel.