Jeremy Anantharaj is a senior in computer science engineering, with not just a hobby, but also a minor in piano.
Born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Anantharaj holds dual citizenship in Canada and the United States. His parents lived and married in India, moving to Canada while his father waited to receive entry into the U.S.
Anantharaj has been playing piano for about 14 years, beginning at the age of seven due to his parents encouraging music as an extracurricular activity. He has always enjoyed classical music, having grown up listening to his parents play.
He began learning pipe organ his sophomore year of high school. Anantharaj appreciated the versatility of the organ and involvement in its music, particularly how it is played: both hands on the keys and feet on the pedals.
“I love both the piano and the organ. If you asked me which one I prefer, I wouldn’t be able to tell you,” Anantharaj said.
Anantharaj usually gets raised eyebrows when he tells people he plays the organ. While it is a lesser-learned instrument, with only around three students taking organ lessons at UT, Anantharaj has no intentions of becoming a professional organist — it’s about enjoying himself.
Upon coming to UT, Anantharaj considered continuing taking lessons since music has always been a hobby for him. After beginning engineering, he wondered if he would ever play the piano again. He found that becoming a music minor would add only a few hours to his coursework each semester and would allow him to begin learning new pieces while focusing on computer science as his career.
Anantharaj started off in electrical engineering. However, after taking a few computer science courses, he changed his concentration to something more personally fulfilling and enjoyable.
“I think if you took piano lessons, organ lessons, any instrument like violin, trumpet in high school — even if you want to do something else with your career — I’d highly recommend still taking lessons at UT,” Anantharaj said. “I’ve gotten the chance to meet people outside of engineering ... It was often really helpful in relieving stress. If I was having a tough week, it was nice to come and play through some pieces.”
Spending time in the music and engineering departments allowed him to meet students from his areas of study, forming new bonds and gaining experiences.
Paxton Wills, senior in electrical engineering and Anantharaj's colleague, discussed some of their interactions.
“We met my sophomore year in (a) computer programming class with data structures and algorithms by Dr. Plank,” Wills said. “(Anantharaj) never comes off as if he’s greater than another person. (Anantharaj) never seemed to be prideful in any way ... (Ananthraj simply respects others a lot.”
Contrary to presuppositions, Anantharaj’s major and minor are not wholly at odds.
“It’s completely different in some ways, but in others very similar,” Anantharaj said. “Music is structurally based off the laws of physics. In many of my (engineering) classes, I would often have examples of the frequencies between different musical notes. So, in a way, it’s structured, but at the same time, it gives you a lot of creativity when you can’t always do that in your engineering classes.”
Anantharaj has also done research on how keys and octaves resonate with each other and on the structures that go into jazz music.
Anantharaj prepared and performed a senior recital at the Church Street United Methodist Church with the help of his piano professors, David Brunell, Chih-Long Hu and Zachary Hughes, and his organ professor, Edie Johnson. While recitals are not required, Anantharaj loves the practical application and wanted to exhibit what he had learned during his four years at UT.
In his performances, Anantharaj strove to maintain a balance in the compositions, appealing to wide range of individuals’ backgrounds in the audience.
“A lot of people — I think — are scared away by classical music,” Anantharaj said. “They see it and say 'Oh, that’s not something very interesting, you have to think about it and understand it and be in the mood.' We wanted a program that would be enjoyable for anyone that wants to show up.”
Most of the piano pieces were ones he had worked on during his four years at UT, with his last piece was from the last academic year. He played piano works by Schubert, Beethoven and Debussy in addition to organ pieces by Buxtehude, Bach and Vierne, arranged by Manz and Widor.
Pat Rutenberg, UT professor of history, has had Anatharaj in his class for two semesters and said he is an outstanding history student on top of his engineering and music success. Rutenberg was impressed with Anantharaj's concert.
“I was wowed by his music. I was actually a music major for a couple years before I switched to history,” Rutenberg said. “I played the organ, actually (the same) organ (Anantharaj played in the recital) while I was at UT in undergraduate, so it was a nice circle for me.”
After graduation, Anantharaj will be working as a software engineer in Seattle, Washington for Amazon, where he interned last summer.
His overall takeaway from his UT experience was that one should pursue hobbies different from what they plan to study.
“I think everyone should try and pursue a hobby which may be outside of their field of work,” Anantharaj said. “It helps you get a broader, well-rounded experience. Being able to make the most out of the opportunities you have is what I think is important. When I start working, I’ll be able to go to concerts, but it’s going to be different than where you’re exposed to faculty members and people who are willing to help you grow and understand these areas which are completely outside your field.”