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Anbarasan Uvahraaj (MM ’25, tuba), performs in a Tianjin Juilliard Orchestra concert with his professor, Brett Stemple. Photo credit: TWAN vision

Tianjin Juilliard is home to an international community made up of students hailing from all over the world, with fascinating and unique paths that led them to Tianjin. We spoke with current student, Anbarasan Uvahraaj (MM ’25, tuba), about his experience coming to the school since this August. Uvahraaj, who completed his studies at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory, came to Tianjin Juilliard to pursue his master's degree in Instrumental and Orchestral Studies major.  

“I was born in Singapore, my parents were born there as well. My grandparents, however, were born in Malaysia, so my parents were first-generation Singaporeans. It’s quite rare for people of Indian descent in Singapore to pursue music, whether it is Western classical or traditional Indian music, so I immediately stood out.” 

As the first tuba student at Tianjin Juilliard, Uvahraaj found out about the school through a Q&A session at Yong Siew Toh Conservatory held by Robert Borden, Associate Dean of Enrollment Management. “I went for an exchange program to the Netherlands, at the Hauge Conservatory for a semester, and so I couldn’t attend the meeting. But my friend Madeline asked Robert, ‘What about tuba, would you be interested in starting a tuba studio?’ And so I contacted him, and I recorded my excerpts and sent them to the school.” Today, both Madelaine (MM ’25, harp) and Uvahraaj are students at Tianjin Juilliard. 

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Anbarasan Uvahraaj (MM ’25, tuba) in lesson with his professor, Brett Stemple. Photo credit: Yuqing Wang

Regarding the strengths of the Instrumental and Orchestral Studies major, a program designed specifically to train students at the most elite level for careers as orchestral musicians of the highest caliber, Uvahraaj says, “I think an orchestral studies major, in the context of studying tuba, focuses on knowing how to support an orchestra. If you want to play tuba long-term as a performer, you need to know how to support the ensemble’s sound. And sometimes, that’s quite difficult because the solo lines that go on in the orchestra might vary from rehearsal to rehearsal, or performance to performance, and you need to be able to pick up on it and be agile.” 

“The best and most most challenging aspect of the program is the rehearsal schedule. Because the concert cycles go by quickly, much like a professional orchestra, I learned how to expedite my preparation process. That has helped me learn how efficiently I can do things to get to my end goal and meet my high standards as a performer.” 

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Anbarasan Uvahraaj (MM ’25, tuba) during Graduate Studies orientation in August of 2023. Photo credit: TWAN vision

Outside of orchestra, Uvahraaj is settling into the busy academic life at Tianjin Juilliard, with ear training, theory, piano, and other classes. “Coming here, I’m learning to live with the constant push that I'm getting from professors, and the work we’re supposed to do. Community engagement, piano lessons, ear training-- it pushes me to become a better person and a better musician.”