âRealizing that music had a special power to make people feel seen and emotionally comforted really inspired me,â said Nivi Ravi ’21, a musician and singer who used her time on campus to fuse classical music with his love of neuroscience and education, Ravi is currently touring for a new opera titled “Iphigenia”.
Ravi was born and raised in the Chicago area before moving to New York City for high school. Her path to music began at the age of four when she became determined to play the violin.
âI think my initial interest in classical music, playing the violin for so long, really drew me into classical voice and opera,â Ravi said. However, the transition to singing was also fortuitous. A music teacher pulled Ravi and his mother aside and told him to take singing lessons. “She saw something in me, potential, and I think that’s what prompted me and my family to consider taking singing lessons.” It was in these middle school classes that Ravi’s love for singing began.
At Harvard, Ravi combined his musical prowess with his other academic interests through a joint concentration in neuroscience and music, as well as a high school in educational studies. Ravi had been intrigued by the healing potential of music before entering college, performing at monthly concerts at a local nursing home. Ravi wanted to learn more through his undergraduate studies. âWhat is the connection between music and memory? How can we process music cognitively, process music emotionally? “
Ravi continued his research during his time on campus, working with the Gaab Lab, a group that studies cognitive neuroscience of development at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, to examine the relationship between exposure to music on development brain structure and learning in young children.
Ravi was even more deeply involved in the arts when she was on campus and still springs from her experiences today. Throughout her undergraduate career, she played the violin with the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra and sang with the Harvard College Opera and the Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum. Additionally, Ravi has played a pivotal role in student leadership, becoming President of the Collegium in her final year. She even organized recitals with the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies. âI still consider this to be the center of my undergraduate artistic experience,â she said. Ravi also received the Louise Donovan Prize, which rewards âunsung heroesâ who direct artistic productions to success.
Serving as the president of the Collegium, noted Ravi, was the highlight of his artistic career at the university. âIt was the most demanding and rewarding experience of my undergraduate career,â she said. “It’s difficult to be president of a 501 (c) (3) in any given year, but especially during a pandemic year for a choral organization.” Ravi had to adapt to the pandemic, orchestrating remote choral practices and handling thousands of audio recordings to produce virtual performances.
Ravi praised her many mentors who helped her in her musical journey in college, with whom she is still in close contact. In particular, she noted the support of Andrew G. Clark, director of choral activities and lecturer in music at Harvard University and conductor of the Collegium. âI think I wouldn’t be the artist and leader that I am today without Andy,â she said. Ravi also praised Carolyn Abbate, a music professor at Harvard. “I have never felt so perceived by a teacher in terms of academic performance in music, and he is someone who inspires me on a daily basis,” said Ravi. “I think she really inspired my pursuit of musicology and my understanding of music beyond what’s written on the page, the role of music and a cultural context and what it means to play music. music beyond sound. “
But Esperanza Spalding, a Harvard professor of music practice and singer-songwriter whom NPR called “the jazz genius of the 21st century,” was perhaps the most important figure in Ravi’s trajectory after earning his diploma.
âShe has opened so many doors for me, but she has been such an encouraging, almost motherly figure in my life,â Ravi said.
When Spalding coincidentally attended a Morris Robinson Master Class that Ravi was performing at, she approached Ravi and asked him to help her develop a new opera house. This opera, “Iphigenia” premiered on November 12 at the Cutler Majestic Theater in Boston. Ravi is currently on tour as a member of the cast. She plays IphigÃ©nie the Younger, one of the character’s six manifestations in the opera.
âIt was really just a special experience to share a whole new opera with the world with my family and friends, an opera that tells the story of a female sacrifice who feels alive and present today,â said Delighted.
Ravi’s performance in “Iphigenia” is a continuation of his previous passions and his work on campus. After touring with “Iphigenia”, Ravi plans to explore opera productions from around the world through his Booth Fellowship. “My spring is going to travel the world to study opera from a musicological and performance perspective.”