UW–Madison to host composer, saxophonist and konnakol artist Arun Luthra as the fall 2021 Division of the Arts interdisciplinary artist-in-residence

The University of Wisconsin–Madison Division of the Arts (presenter) welcomes Arun Luthra as the fall 2021 interdisciplinary artist-in-residence. Saxophonist, composer and konnakol artist Arun Luthra is an American musician of Indian heritage who fuses Black American Music with elements of Indian classical music, especially konnakol (South Indian classical music vocal percussion). He connects a wide range of modern and classic musical influences to create a vibrant new sound and style.

For the semester, Luthra is teaching “The Universal Language of Rhythm: Explorations Through Konnakol and Black American Music,” a 3-credit course. This course is an introduction to konnakol – the Carnatic (South Indian classical music) art form of vocalizing rhythms, as well as an exploration of the blending of konnakol with other musical traditions – particularly Black American music, and a survey of the concept of rhythm as a universal phenomenon which defines our world. Students will present works that incorporate konnakol concepts into creative projects ranging from music to poetry, prose, dance, and beyond. Watch this short video for more information about the course and residency along with viewing the residency website at go.wisc.edu/luthra.

To supplement the course and residency, Luthra is hosting guest artists in the course virtually. They include B.C. Manjunath, Camille Thurman and Selvaganesh Vinayakram. Their longer biographies are listed below.


In addition, there will be multiple events during the fall. Some upcoming events include:

Wed., September 1 | 5 p.m. 
Jazz at Five
McKee Farms Park | 2930 Chapel Valley Rd., Fitchburg, WI 53711

Jazz at Five is Wisconsin’s premier free jazz concert series. The UW–Madison Jazz Ensemble All Stars led by Johannes Wallmann, pianist and Director of Jazz Studies, will perform from 5-6:15 p.m. Johannes Wallmann Quintet will perform from 6:45-8 p.m. Arun Luthra will sit in with the students and perform with the quintet.

Fri., September 10 | 7:30 p.m.
Arun Luthra’s Konnakol Jazz Project
Memorial Union, Play Circle | 800 Langdon St., Madison, WI 53706
General admission: $40 | Wisconsin Union members and UW–Madison faculty and staff: $37 | Virtual/Livestream: $27 | UW–Madison students: $10

Saxophonist, composer and konnakol artist Arun Luthra combines South Indian vocal percussion with Black American Music. He will be joined by Art Hirahara (piano), Noriko Ueda (bass), Jonathan Barber (drums) and Rohan Krishnamurthy (Carnatic percussion). Arun Luthra is the Division of the Arts fall 2021 interdisciplinary artist-in-residence and this concert is hosted by the Wisconsin Union Theater.

Tickets are available for in-person attendance at the Play Circle and live streaming. If you attend in-person, you will need to follow UW–Madison’s COVID-19 related guidelines.

More events will be announced in the later part of September. Events are subject to change.


The fall 2021 Interdisciplinary Artist-in-Residence Teaching Program is presented by the UW–Madison Division of the Arts and hosted by the Mead Witter School of Music with Professor Johannes Wallmann as lead faculty. Wallmann is also the Director of Jazz Studies. Co-sponsors include the Center for South Asia, the Department of Anthropology and the Wisconsin Union Theater along with the Arts + Literature Laboratory and the Wisconsin Science Festival.

The UW–Madison Division of the Arts has hosted world-class artists-in-residence since 1995 and formally launched the Interdisciplinary Arts Residency Program (IARP) in 1999. This program brings innovative artists to UW–Madison to teach semester-long, interdisciplinary courses and to publicly present their work for campus and community audiences. The program recently changed its name to the Interdisciplinary Artist-in-Residence Teaching (IART) Program. IART is made possible by funding from the university’s Office of the Provost.

Arun Luthra

Arun Luthra headshot behind a saxophone

Saxophonist, composer and konnakol artist Arun Luthra is an American musician of Indian heritage who fuses modern post-bop Black American Music with elements of Indian classical music – especially konnakol (South Indian classical music vocal percussion). He connects a wide range of modern and classic musical influences to create a vibrant new sound and style.

He is the leader of the Konnakol Jazz Project, who have performed across the Americas, Asia, Europe and Australia. Luthra has studied and performed with notable Hindustani and Carnatic music masters and also shared the stage and recorded with many of the greatest Black American Music, Afro-Cuban, Brazilian, pop and world music artists. He is also a faculty member of the School of Jazz and Contemporary Music at the New School’s College of Performing Arts in New York.

B.C.  Manjunath

BC Manjunath playing a percussion instrument

B.C. Manjunath started playing music including learning Carnatic Talavadya from his parents. He is one of the few Carnatic musicians who can read, transcribe and play from western notation. He has accompanied many great artists from India and abroad and has been a regular member of many percussion ensembles. Manjunath has performed in all the major cultural centers of South India and in over 40 countries.

Camille Thurman

Camille Thurman is a composer, multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and unique interpreter of the jazz tradition. She plays the tenor saxophone along with bass clarinet, flute and piccolo. She has four recordings and received multiple awards. Thurman has shared stages with numerous R&B and jazz luminaries. She recently toured as part of Jazz at Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsalis as a saxophonist. Thurman was also chosen by the State Department under the Fulbright Scholarship grant and American Music Aboard to perform internationally.

Selvaganesh Vinayakram

Selvaganesh Vinayakram (prefers to use Selvaganesh) grew up in a family of musicians. He is known for his performances, especially percussion instruments, including the kanjeera, and working with multiple musical genres from around the world. Selvaganesh’s recordings include Indian classical duets, Carnatic-meets-Hindustani hybrids and jazz-fusion. He has composed scores and performed on numerous films’ soundtracks. Selvaganesh formed the group Arka, which explores rock with jazz and Carnatic elements. He also established the Vinayakram School of World Rhythms in multiple countries.