Traveling more than 7,000 miles away from New London, Connecticut, to Chennai, India, Petty Officer First Class Meera Gudipati, one of the U.S. Coast Guard Band’s co-principal flutists, has learned first-hand how music can be a universal language through her continued work with the South Asian Symphony Foundation.
Gudipati received an invitation from the former Indian Ambassador to the United States and Indian Foreign Secretary, Nirupama Rao, to participate in the South Asian Symphony Orchestra concert, Peace Notes. This event was created in an effort to bring the people of Indo-Pacific countries together to perform a concert in India as part of a peace mission.
As part of this mission, Gudipati worked with musicians from eight nations throughout southern Asia through both musical instruction and cultural exchanges. During the nine-day visit during summer 2022, she noted the musicians “formed relationships through music” as they collaborated with music as their common language.
Gudipati commented how this experience allowed the musicians to connect with a country they typically only see in the news, enabling them to connect to the people through their respective experiences. She also took the opportunity to get in touch with her own Indian heritage by getting fitted for her first sari, which she recently put on for her grandmother.
Overall, Gudipati said the musical venue allowed the participants to “focus on similarities beyond historical conflict,” and appreciated how the opportunity helped her better understand the “infrastructure and education in South Asia.”
The concert itself brought together a wide range of musical pieces from the works of Johannes Brahms to compositions familiar in Indian pop culture. “Making music with such diversity is a feat of its own,” remarked Gudipati. Yet an experience such as this, where a diverse team of international musicians collaborated together for a cohesive concert, demonstrated how music can transcend boundaries, even language.
This program is just one of many cultural opportunities that Gudipati has participated in as part of the U.S. Coast Guard Band for the past four and a half years. Charged with promoting goodwill for the U.S. Coast Guard and the nation, the Coast Guard Band has a long history of performing internationally. Most notably, they were the first American military band to perform in the former Soviet Union in 1989. “The people are so great in this organization,” she remarked emphatically when discussing her travels and experiences playing with the band in venues such as the White House.