Q&A – composer and musician Supriya Nagarajan

Composer, Carnatic Singer and CEO of Manasamitra, Supriya has been working with Highlights’ Creative Engagement Officer Kate, bringing Raga music workshops to a wide range of students, across County Durham and Cumbria schools, since October 2023. Kate talked to Supriya between workshops in May, to find out more about her work.

Kate: Hi Supriya!

It’s great to have you working with us again for some Summer Term workshops. Your schedule is very varied this visit, from quite young Primary aged children, through to Year 10 GCSE students, where you’re delivering a Lecture – Demonstration session with a Q&A. Can you tell us a bit about your teaching and education practice and approach? What are you hoping to share in the workshops?

Supriya: My teaching music practise extends to demystifying Indian classical music in the UK and beyond. I bring this approach through practical sessions, lecture-demonstrations, presenting concerts and collaborating with musicians from different disciplines.

I want to keep the message simple and interesting and open for people who don’t know about it. I teach students from all different parts of the world, in the way they want to learn- They might want to learn about a particular region or style but it can be through a loose series of classes.

I enjoy working with Highlights as it brings South Indian classical music to schools that might not come across it. To present this music to 6 or 7 year olds in a simple way – through a musical scale that they realise they already know – it makes the message of Music being universal very clear. The way I describe it – whether you’re delivering a workshop, or a concert etc if you can develop a ‘golden thread’ between everyone in the space, you’ve done your job and connected with people. It’s not structured or pre-planned, my practise is about thinking about the people in front of me, whatever age.

My performances called Lullaby (which have been well received in Northumberland and County Durham) has been received by families and mothers had sleeping babies at performances which is all good!

Kate: Highlights is working with you again in June, this time in South Lakeland where you’ll be visiting Arnside National Primary School, Storth CE Primary School and Dallam School (Secondary). A lot of the very small rural primary schools we work with have mixed year group classes, which can bring a broader age group together. Could you tell us a little about how you consider this in your planning?

Supriya: Working with mixed year groups and so mixed ages – in terms of music – a combination of listening and doing can work well and bite- sized ‘doing’ is very useful. So teaching with some movement, as very young children love that combination. My young granddaughter listens with her body and moves freely but older children can listen more intently and concentrate on listening and want to hear the notes. Having a rapport with teachers and understanding how they understand what you’ll be bringing in, is very important. I want to give children that ‘unconscious permission’ to be themselves.

Kate: You are based regionally in the North, in Dewsbury, Kirklees in West Yorkshire and I know you work with the wonderful Yorkshire Sound Women Network (YSWN) as well as being the CEO of your own arts organisation, Manasamitra. Has working with rural schools in our Northern counties been a new element to your practice? And do you notice any topics or interests coming from the children?

Supriya: Coming from a big city environment where there are lots of people to Cumbria, means there are smaller more intimate opportunities to share with people here. There’s a sense of wonder and an ‘exotic’ India when I talk about the country and help them explore and be curious and ask questions.

Kate: Could you wrap up by telling us about any interesting projects you’ve completed recently, or what have you got coming up this year?

Supriya: My latest work is on climate change. I don’t want to do this as an activist musician but as a gentle musician to think about the issues, rather than a ‘start acting today’ message.

Supriya Nagarajan has a unique voice in the British music scene and creates concept driven immersive music productions that push boundaries and encourage thought. She has performed across the world in various venues and festivals like the Harpa in Reykjavik, Royal Albert Hall, WOMAD, QEH Southbank Centre, Casa Da Musica and the Zee Jaipur Litfest music stage. Her works like Lullaby Sonic Cradle, Meltwater, Sound of Tea and Bollywood Jazz project have won critical acclaim and earned her a niche reputation in the UK and beyond.

Supriya is regularly supported by PRS Foundation, Jerwood Foundation and Arts Council England. Her music is a blend of her South Indian classical traditions and Western contemporary styles and she has released albums under the Manasamitra label, Tokuroku and Come Play With Me.


Resources and further reading:

Moon Song-

Yorkshire Sound Women Network –

Theatre Hullabaloo –


photo Kate Halsall, Penrith Castle Park

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