W'Air Are They Now? Nistha Raj, Class of 2014

Nistha Raj Wearing A Yellow And Gold Tunic In Front Of A Gray Background


Nistha Raj, Class of 2014

With training in Western and Indian classical music, violinist Nistha Raj’s compositions blend tradition with innovation, transcending cultural boundaries to unite global audiences. Recently, she shifted her focus from performing to being a cultural arts leader, cofounding the community platform District of Raga. In that role, she curates events like The Alaya Project, a recent show at AMP by Strathmore that explored the intersection of Carnatic Indian classical music with jazz and funk. 

How did Strathmore’s Artist in Residence (AIR) program help advance your career?  

It provided me with invaluable support and skills that enabled me to successfully launch and release my debut album to a sold-out crowd at the Mansion. 

What are a few specific skills that you learned? 

So, launching an album is a very big endeavor, and it was new for me. Cathy Fink and the mentors guided me through that process, from reviewing the music that I had recorded and helping me get everything logistically together. There was also learning the business skills of being an artist. You know, there’s a lot that sometimes gets overlooked like how to do your taxes, how to market yourself, and how to get the gig. 

What sort of opportunities were made possible by being an AIR?  

When I was in the program, we all got a date to perform on Millennium Stage [at The Kennedy Center]. I forged a very strong relationship with Diana Ezrins, who was programming [that series] at the time . . . and we work to get together to this day. (Ed. Note: Ezrins is now Wolf Trap’s director of programming.) She’s been a huge part of how I grew my organization, District of Raga. 

What upcoming project are you most excited about?  

Through my work with District of Raga, I curate events that showcase and preserve the performing arts culture of South Asia. I’m excited about expanding this work and our community, and I’m looking forward to the third season of a series of concerts that I curate and copresent in collaboration with Wolf Trap at the Barn, as well as presenting more concerts in partnership with Strathmore. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.