Structuring the arts: How this mother-daughter duo is giving India's young artists a much-needed platform

Kavita Iyer and her daughter, Dhaani Singhal, are the founders of Young Artistes, a nationwide competition for young musicians, dancers and singers across the country
Dhaani Singhal and Kavita Iyer | Pic: Edexlive
Dhaani Singhal and Kavita Iyer | Pic: Edexlive

Ever wondered why the arts are seldom considered a viable profession? Stories of struggle of musicians, dancers and singers are more common than not. Therefore, the arts are always seen as extracurricular, a boost to one's academic pursuits. And according to Kavita Iyer, this stems from the unstructured nature of its progress. "When someone pursues academics or sports, they are aware of their progress. The same is not true for the arts. More often than not, it is a solitary endeavour and requires years of devotion without a way of knowing where one stands," says Kavita.

It was with a motivation to change this that Kavita decided to launch Young Artiste under the aegis of her family's foundation, the Singhal Iyer Family Foundation (SIFF). "When my daughter, Dhaani Singhal, who is also the co-founder, started learning music, she complained about the unstructured progress. That is when we decided to launch this platform where artistes can come together, showcase their talent, learn from each other and also be motivated to continue their artform," says Kavita, adding, "This will hopefully prevent talented youngsters from dropping out below their potential." Kavita is a trained Hindustani vocalist, while Dhaani is trained in Western vocals.

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Young Artiste is a national-level competition that began in 2019. In its first edition, which concluded in 2021, Kavita and her team allowed youngsters between the age of 11 and 18 to participate in 20 categories, including classical and contemporary vocals, instrumental and dance. "From Hindustani to Carnatic music, to artforms like ballet and instruments like drums and guitar, students could participate in various categories," states Kavita. The competition was conducted online.

Kavita says that they received thousands of applications from all across the country from which only 500 could move on to the next round. In the final stage, only 100 students were selected. These students received online mentorship from veterans in their respective fields for six months. SIFF also awarded scholarships to the winner of the competition as a means to continue their pursuit of the arts. "Each of the 20 categories had a national winner. A Young Artiste of the Year prize was also awarded to students who were the best in vocals, dance and instrumental," adds Kavita.

SIFF plans to conduct the Young Artistes competition once every two years. "We also plan to increase the age limit. This season, only school students were able to participate, but we want college students to participate as well," explains Kavita. And that's not all. Young Artistes is also offering online courses in the arts as well. "Several students who applied for the competition didn't have any formal training in their art. Lack of a training academy and teachers in their area seems to be the major problem. Online courses can help bridge this gap," says Kavita.

Currently, the Young Artistes Academy, which is based out of Bengaluru, has online courses in Indian contemporary vocals, Kathak and synthesizer. This year, the academy will launch classes for Carnatic, Hindustani and Western vocals as well. "A lot of experts and teachers have come together to create this. We are hoping that the students who wish to learn the arts can find the best mentors and a community of their own through these courses," states Kavita. 

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