Publication Date




Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Music (MM)


Musicology (Music)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Melvin L. Butler

Second Committee Member

David Ake

Third Committee Member

Anne Searcy

Fourth Committee Member

Subramanian Ramakrishnan


Every year in Cleveland, Ohio, members of the South Indian community participate in the Cleveland Thyagaraja Festival, the largest event of its kind outside of India. This event features the performance of classical South Indian Carnatic music, and is hosted in honor of Saint Thyagaraja, a renowned nineteenth-century composer of Carnatic songs. As a shared project of long-distance cultural nationalism, this festival brings together artists from India and students from the United States and Canada, allowing Carnatic community members to contest cultural identities in a recontextualized space outside of the homeland. In this ethnography, I expand on the existing Carnatic music scholarship by analyzing the educational Sustaining Sampradaya program at the Cleveland Thyagaraja Festival with an intercultural perspective. Within the festival structure, elements of pedagogy, tradition, and devotion are contested, particularly among students and young participants. Specifically, I argue that the music provides students the opportunity to self-identify as South Indians living in the United States and Canada and mobilize the practice of Carnatic music within and beyond the global South Indian diaspora. A critical study of the festival's structure and its growing success offers valuable insights into discourses of South Indian identity and the potential for multicultural music performance, education, and scholarship in the United States.


Cleveland Thyagaraja Festival; Thyagaraja Aradhana; Carnatic music; Indian classical music; Sustaining Sampradaya; Construction of South Indian diasporic identity; Music, hybridity, ritual

Available for download on Sunday, April 25, 2021