With an enthusiasm for the vocal arts and a passion for music, Srushti Gubbi, 13, has taken the center stage at many events, including a Detroit Lions game and the U.S. Open, where she sang the National Anthem after Serena Williams competed. Poised and steady, Srushti performs with ease and shows that even a middle-schooler can be a winner.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed.
The Indian SCENE: Tell me a little bit about yourself.
Srushti Gubbi: I’m a 13-year-old middle schooler. I’m very passionate about music. I love trying out singing in different languages and different genres. I have learned to sing in 12 languages so far. I enjoy playing piano and guitar. Apart from music, I love to watch TV and play with my friends.
IS: What grade are you in and which subjects interest you most? Why?
SG: I’m an 8th grader. My favorite subject is Spanish, that’s because I enjoy speaking in another language with my friends and Spanish songs are very catchy too.
IS: Are you a part of any extracurricular activities? Which one do you enjoy most?
SG: I take voice lessons in Hindustani classical music, Western music, piano and Bollywood dance. I used to take lessons in guitar and swim too. I have taken a break from both but planning on getting back soon. I enjoy the Western voice lessons the most, could be because it comes easily for me and I can experiment with songs applying my own ideas.
IS: I have seen some online videos of you in some amazing moments where you truly showed some amazing vocal talent. Can you talk about how you first began singing?
SG: My brother used to sing at school and community events when he was small. Back then, I was just a toddler. When my brother was rehearsing his Carnatic classical music and some other songs, I was playing around would grasp lyrics and tune of the songs completely without realizing it. My parents observed that and noticed my interest towards music. My mom started teaching me also along with my brother and they encouraged me to sing in family gatherings and community events.
IS: Who or what encouraged you to continue this skill?
SG: My parents knew music and learned when they were young. Music is something always played in the background at our home. I was a big copycat of my brother and I also learned a few songs listening to him. A few years later, we both started singing for fun in family gatherings and community events. I felt happy and important when my singing was appreciated by everyone. I became more serious and started dedicating my time for music after becoming one of the finalists of Zee TV’s Sa Re Ga Ma Pa L’il Champs(Hindi)and winning Zee TV’s Sa Re Ga Ma Pa L’il Champs (Bangla). My parents support and help me lot, actually. It takes lot of their time and effort as I travel quite a bit for music.
IS: You’ve performed at the opening for major sporting events, which must have been such a memorable experience. How were you invited to be a part of these occasions?
SG: I gradually started participating in singing competitions after I got little confident and better at singing with regular practice. I wanted to explore singing opportunities on various other platforms. My mom came to know about U.S. Open online auditions, she submitted my audition. I got selected and was called to New York for an in-person callback to perform in front of panel of judges. There were many singing talents from all over the country. I gave my best, but didn’t have many expectations to make it. We were overjoyed when we received the email from USTA that I got selected to perform from the center court of Arthur Ashe Stadium. This coveted opportunity inspired me to try out auditioning for singing the National Anthem at Detroit Tigers and Detroit Lions games. I was honored to perform at both.
IS: How did it feel to not only stand in front of tens of thousands of fans, but to know that you were being broadcast on television where an even greater audience as watching? What were you thinking about?
SG: I was ecstatic when I was picked up by the USTA from the hotel where I was staying. I felt like a celebrity when I was taken through the presidential way and received by USTA officials upon arriving at the stadium. I became a little nervous when I was asked in the interview if I knew that there were 25,000 people in the stadium. But I felt very comfortable after going through a dry run between the matches. I enjoyed watching Serena Williams play so close while I waited. The Detroit Lions game was even more nerve-wracking, with a way bigger crowd. But I must tell you that in any sporting event, the officials who are with you are very kind and encouraging. They make sure you are comfortable and feel at home. Another interesting thing I noticed was the crowd being very supportive and lively. You obviously forget everything at that moment when you stand in front of such a huge crowd to perform, and all you think is that you need to give your best. A little nervousness is always good but it should not take over you.
IS: What hopes do you have in the future? Either with singing or with any other profession? Where would you like to be in 15 years?
SG: I certainly hope to pursue my singing. I dream about becoming a well-known performer, travelling around the world and spreading joy and positivity through music and my success. I want to help the world even if I don’t continue my journey as a musician.
IS: What are some advantages of being part of the Indian community?
SG: I get to enjoy the best of both worlds. I get to go to our community events and be part of it. I get lot of support and constant encouragement from Indian community. They always appreciate and recognize my work which motivates me to do better.
IS: What advice would you give to teenagers your age about fulfilling their dreams and passions?
SG: I would say keep your mind healthy and engaged. Do make use of resources and technology righteously. Don’t give up on your dreams. If you fail, continue to strive hard, it will happen eventually.
Srushti’s Best List
Favorite Indian dish: Spinach Kofta with Naan
Favorite thing to do with friends: Dance to music
Favorite Hindi song: Too many songs to list!