Harine Pushpanathan, Young Artist with Living Song

Hi! I’m Harine, currently one of Living Song’s Young Artists. I’ve been working with Living Song directly for about two years now and have had lots of amazing opportunities to grow as an artist and singing leader.

My love for singing first grew through learning South Indian Carnatic vocals (by the end of which I obtained a Diploma) and singing with my primary school (Nelson Primary School) choir. In 2013, I joined NewYVC – a choir created by Jane Wheeler. I was part of NewYVC, East London for ten years before leaving for university. The Choral Music Experience (CME) Institute Course is an annual event that NewYVC are the trained choir for. We work with singing leaders, and those aspiring, to learn the ins and outs of choral conducting and develop leadership in this field. I wanted to know what it would be like to be on the other side of the music stand, so I applied to be a singing leader and have achieved my Level 1! I wanted to work on my choral leadership and decided that the best next step would be to join Living Song as a Young Artist.

One of my first jobs with Living Song was as a guest artist at the University of Cambridge Primary School (UCPS) Arts Week in 2021. I spent five days at the school, working with the primary children aged 4 to 6, helping them explore the connection between weather, music, and emotion, working alongside the teacher. I was also involved in lesson planning with the other Reception teachers. It felt so refreshing to be treated as a professional. I also got to work with Year 5s and 6s which allowed me to explore a different style of teaching. It was interesting to compare the various approaches and reactions from the different year groups. My week at UCPS was wonderful and I came out of it with a lot of reflections and more passion for the work I do. This was only possible as Living Song covered all my expenses and arranged for me and another young artist to stay in a small hotel near the school.

In 2022, I was invited to join Lambeth Music Service’s Sing Lambeth Project as a Living Song young artist. This aimed to bring back the love for singing by providing secondary schools with the opportunity to get together and sing. I assisted lead artists running workshops in Lambeth secondary schools to teach repertoire for a big performance in the summer. I found it quite daunting at first as I hadn’t worked with KS3 a lot, so it took me a little time to gear myself up to it. I worked under supervision, and grew the confidence to play around with a couple of warmups, completed a mini-teach, and led a piece at the final performance! I also got to do a mini-teach and led a piece for the KS2 event, which went very well.

Later, I got the opportunity to become a member of Living Song’s Youth Advisory Board (YAB). As a member of the YAB, I can provide insight and advise on what Living Song’s projects involve – all with the intent of making a difference in my community through music. We participated in a Fair Energy Campaign event where we got to showcase a song about activism that we had written only three days prior, in just three hours! It was really exciting. We even got to take part in an episode of the Energy and Revolution podcast where we were asked about our inspiration for the song, the process of writing the song, and what’s in future for us. I’m looking forward to our next steps and seeing what else we can bring together as the Youth Advisory Board!

It was difficult to leave behind so many musical memories in London and was almost a deal-breaker when choosing which university I wanted to attend. But, I thought “why not bring the music to Cambridge?” I still very much wanted to stay in touch with music and felt thrilled when the opportunity to assist on the University of Cambridge primary school choir came about, through Living Song. I have been assisting for two terms now and have gone from observing from the sidelines, to leading a little and even conducting all of year 5 and 6 at the recent Festival of Voices Concert at West Road Concert Hall in Cambridge. Being a part of Living Song is such a joy and I’m looking forward to see how I develop as a youth leader and how I can give back to my community.