Take 5! Five Questions: with Sandy Asirvatham

Sandy Asirvatham

Photo courtesy of Sandy Asirvatham.

SAAM Staff
Blog Editor
April 12, 2010

Laurel Fehrenbach, public programs assistant here at American Art, manages the free Take 5! jazz concerts, which take place in the Kogod Courtyard every third Thursday from 5–8 p.m. She talked with Sandy Asirvatham, who will be performing vocals and keyboard with Frank Russo (drums), Max Murray (bass) and Jeff Antoniuk (sax) at Take 5! The program, A Tribute to the Tax Man with Sandy Asirvatham, will take place on tax day, Thursday, April 15, in the museum’s Kogod Courtyard from 5–8 p.m.

Eye Level: Sandy you have your BA in Economics and an MFA in fiction writing both from Columbia University, and you started out as a journalist for Baltimore’s City Paper. How did you get into the jazz world?

Sandy Asirvatham: I was procrastinating! When you work from home as a freelance writer—which I’ve been doing successfully since 1995—there are certain pitfalls. I managed to avoid the obvious ones, such as raiding the refrigerator every half hour or cleaning house obsessively. But I couldn’t resist the temptation of the piano in the living room. Eventually I embarked on a ten-year process to learn how to play, improvise, and compose in the jazz idiom. I guess my procrastinating was unwittingly strategic.

EL: Do you still write fiction, or are you focused on songwriting now?

SA: It’s a complicated question, actually. I’m a compulsive storyteller, ruminator, and commentator, but the form is always changing. Sometimes I’m moved to write lyrics, other times it’s fiction or nonfiction prose. At the moment I am working on a longer piece of prose (which I dare not call a b**k, yet). I also spend a ridiculous amount of time composing pithy Facebook status updates.

EL: Did your economics background inspire the idea for A Tribute to the Tax Man?

SA: I had a dual major in philosophy and economics, which means I am a doom-and-gloom type by both nature and training. Our country’s economic challenges have had me worried. This concert is my attempt to lighten up a little and (I hope) help the audience do the same. After all, money problems are nothing new to humankind.

EL: What influences your original compositions?

SA: Everything, actually. But if I have to be specific, I’ll give a special shout-out to Radiohead, Shirley Horn, Chopin, Nick Drake, and Dr. Seuss.

EL: Have you filed your taxes yet?

SA: Of course not! That would take too much adrenaline out of the process.

 

Recent Posts

Two visitors look at a timeline on a wall. Behind them is a painting hanging on a blue wall and the words "Fighters for Freedom" with text underneath.
SAAM's educators invite students and visitors to reflect on William H. Johnson's portraits and make connections to our world today.
Emily Berg
A photograph of Phoebe Hillemann
Phoebe Hillemann
Teacher Institutes Educator
Detail of fiber art with a silhouette of woman. Her arms and one leg are raised as if mid-jump.
Women Artists06/13/2024
Artists and visitors mingled at the Subversive, Skilled, Sublime: Fiber Art Open House
A photograph of a woman.
Katie Hondorf
Public Affairs Specialist
Illustration showing a person with short, brown hair. They are holding a camera up to their face.
Laura Aguilar challenged accepted standards of beauty and represented the LGBTQ+ community, becoming one of the most influential Chicana photographers of her generation.