Math & Music. What’s common? Siddharth Rajan

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Siddharth had a fascination for both these art forms right from school (yes, math is an art!). Let’s hear what he has to say about the choice of transition that he had to make, moving from math to music.
A choice that eventually turned perennial.

From Math to Music. How So?

When I was in school, there were two things I was majorly passionate about – music and mathematics. Math had always been something that I was good at, and I felt it came naturally to me. So I chose to study math at St. Stephen’s.
As for music, I had an affinity towards it since I was 4, when my parents made me my first “Mix Tape”. I started playing the guitar at 13. Initially, I was self-taught, learning chords by watching people play, and through my brother’s guitar notebook. Eventually I took lessons, to fine tune my skills and learn more theory. As my music taste developed, so did my passion towards playing the guitar, and the rush I felt while playing on stage for the first couple of times in school- words cannot explain!
In class 12, I was one of the 4 founding members of our school’s music society, which had not existed till then. It was the first time I had taken initiative to make a change and asserted myself, something I was not very good at. This helped us get more opportunities to perform, both in our school and in other schools.

At college, my course was very different from what I expected, and I found it hard to excel in it. Additionally, I was not able to take enough initiative to meet and play with other musicians, and the couple of attempts I made did not go so well. With my 3 years coming to an end, things did not look great, academically and otherwise.

It was right at the end of my college life that my brother, who played in a band, asked me if I would try playing bass for his band, as they did not have a permanent bassist in the line-up. This was a second chance at pursuing my dream. Had never played bass before, but I embraced it, easy decision. Tougher decisions would follow later.

Your opinion on following passion- so how early do you start pursuing your passion? What were your trade-off? How did you resolve them?

I have always believed in following one’s passion.

As for how early you start pursuing your passion, it depends on each situation. Personally, I think it is something that should not be neglected, right from the time you start feeling it. And it is about finding a balance. Quite often, especially during school years, people tend to believe that academics are more important, and that compromises must be made in the “non-academic” field. Talent and passion towards something non-academic is just as important as talent and passion towards academics.
After college, I worked as an Associate Analyst at Walmart Global Technology Services. For one and a half years, I played for my band,The Uncertainty Principle, while working. This meant that life was quite hectic, since I would often be playing gigs in different cities. Eventually, I reached a point where I felt I needed to put more into my music, if I were to give myself the best shot of pursuing my dream.
There would be no more “employee benefits” or pension funds. I took up the managerial duties of the band as well, though I had no experience in that field, and nobody to learn from as such. Made a lot of mistakes, but I learnt from each of them and used my lessons well. Things were not as stable as they were in a corporate job. For some people, these sacrifices may not have made sense, but these are the risks you have to take in order to give yourself the best shot of reaching your dream. If you are truly passionate and truly believe you can do it, you will be able to see the sense in making these sacrifices.

What do you think of when you reflect back on choices you have made?

I have made some hard choices, a lot of which other people would not make. To some people, these decisions would seem like bad ideas. However, I stand by all the choices I have made. I made the right choice in studying math at St. Stephen’s College, I made the right choice by joining my band, The Uncertainty Principle, and I made the right choice by quitting my job to give music my full effort. When I was first approached by my brother, I had not played with a band since school, I was relatively out of practice, I had very little knowledge about how anything in the music industry worked, and most of all, I had never played the bass before. However, within 4 months, The Uncertainty Principle developed significantly, and started playing shows with reasonable regularity. But the thing that told me without any doubt that I made the right choice was the competition we played at IIT Delhi in October 2011. There we competed against well respected bands, and we won the competition, playing in front of a huge crowd at the final. In fact, I won the award for “Best Bassist”, something I could not have dreamt of a few months before that.
With The Uncertainty Principle I have played gigs and festivals in Delhi, and outside Delhi. We have won several competitions, and played alongside some well-respected international bands, receiving acclaim from them as well. One of the things I am most proud of is the January 2013 issue of Rolling Stone Magazine India, where our band was featured as one of the five artists to watch out for across India. Most recently, we played alongside one of our favourite bands and biggest influences, an Australian band called “Karnivool“. This is probably the highest point I have reached so far, not just musically, but perhaps in my whole life. I also began playing with another band of a different genre, called “The Alibi“, and have really enjoyed the experience of making music and playing live shows with them.
The way I see it, the only thing that doesn’t make sense is to not follow your dream. I feel this is also the right time for me to give it my all, if I am to succeed. I had thought that my opportunity with music had gone during college, so when my brother asked me to join the band, it was a second chance that I simply could not miss out on. So with respect to these big decisions, I have no regrets.

Your message to young music enthusiasts out there.

There are a lot of fantastic musicians and bands coming up every day. What I feel is that no matter what people say, if you really want to be a part of the industry, keep working. You don’t have to be the most technical musician in order to make good music that people like, and that you like. People will give you advice, some people will like your music, some people won’t. The important thing is to take advice and to learn from others, while making sure you keep the essence of the music you are trying to make. You don’t need to be winning competitions or individual awards in order to be a good musician. Everybody will make mistakes initially and every band sounds bad at some point. But that’s alright, just keep working, keep expressing yourself through your music, and keep developing. It is a tough career choice and a tough industry, but if you are passionate about music, don’t give up, because the joy of being on stage or of making good music is something that can’t be replicated.

Anything else you want to make a point about.

Being a musician is tough. There are going to be many times when you get frustrated, and when you do not get what you deserve. There will be times when you get stuck and can’t finish writing a song, or you can’t seem to get it right with the band. Sometimes you will wonder what you are doing wrong, and what more you can do. With every note you play, every movement you make on stage, you are being scrutinised.
But the thing that makes all this worth it is the rush you feel. The feeling of being on stage, playing music, having people enjoy that music, nothing compares to that, and it is something you have to feel to understand. For me, those moments, and those songs, make all the frustration, and everything else that goes with it, worth it, and that’s what I live for. I don’t know exactly where I’m going to be or where it will take me, but by giving it my full effort, I give myself the best chance of succeeding.

Gradstory also wants the readers to know, what struck a chord with the team. Its when Siddharth tells that the only thing that doesn’t make sense to him is not to follow one’s dreams. We wish him luck in his pursuit, while we chase ours!

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