Alumni profiles: Rathi Kumar

As part of our preparations for our 20th anniversary weekend (June 4-5, 2016), we present a small series of alumni profiles, celebrating the profound and enduring role Kokopelli plays in the lives of many of its choristers.

Rathi KumarRathi Kumar
London, U.K.
Kokopelli 1998-2002
Òran 2002-08
’Nuf Sed 1999-2008

I started singing in Kokopelli when I was 14 years old. Looking back, I could never have foreseen the impact this organization would have on my life.

I found out about the choir during the Fringe in the summer of ’98. I was there with a couple of friends I grew up with and an a cappella group made up of current and past singers from Kokopelli/Vic were performing (I think they were called ‘The Polyesters’... I’m sure Jenica will remember!). That was the first time I’d really heard a cappella music in that format and I just knew that I wanted to sing like that in harmony with people. I had a chat with Jason St. Laurent (former Polyester and Kokopelli alumnus) after their performance and he told me about Kokopelli and how to sign up for an audition.

I still remember how badly I wanted to be a part of this group, even though I had yet to hear the choir perform. It speaks to the way each member of the organisation really draws you in and makes you feel like you are a part of something bigger than anything you could have previously imagined. Of course, much of that has to do with Scott Leithead and his willingness to be excellent and inclusive at the same time (an attitude he passes along to everyone fortunate enough to cross his path). The music education I received while singing in his choirs fuelled my passion  to study music in university and gave me the skills to marry the emotional aspects of music with the technical.

I now live in London, England and work in an amazing venue called the Roundhouse, which puts on music, circus and theatre productions in a historic 1847 railway building. The Roundhouse also subsidizes creative projects for young people aged 11–25 and gives them exclusive use of the studios beneath our main space.

I am a project manager by day, but by night I am the assistant director of the Roundhouse Choir, a project run through the Paul Hamlyn Roundhouse Studios for 16–25 year olds. Through my involvement in the Roundhouse Choir, I have been fortunate enough to work with popular music stars such as Imogen Heap, Mark Ronson, Boy George, Heaven 17, Sam Lee, Spiritualized, Jamie Cullum and now most recently Camille O’Sullivan, as well as conductors and composers such as Eriks Esenvalds, Steven Layton and Hugh Brunt. I am confident these opportunities would not have presented themselves had I not gained a monumental amount of choral experience singing in Kokopelli and Oran.

I currently sing (and serve as treasurer) in a choir called Sound. I also sit on the board of directors of an organization called Voices Now, which puts on choral festivals every other year and is promoting a movement in the UK to get as many people singing in choirs as possible. Through these avenues I have heard countless choirs from across the country, and I can say with confidence that what is happening in Edmonton, Alberta in the Kokopelli Choir Association is a very rare and precious thing. I feel privileged to have been part of it.

I truly believe that this organization made me the person I am today and for that I am grateful. It has also given me a community of friends like no other, who I miss dearly and can’t wait to be reunited with at the 20th anniversary.