March 2013: Karmalita Bawar

Karmalita2VCU Music alumni have fascinating stories on their undergraduate years. Bawar, VCU Music Financial/Human Resource Assistant, (’90) is no different. With such a varied background as hers (she nearly majored in synthesizers, people!), it’s no surprise that her career has spanned from nearly every facet of music administrative support at VCU to composing and even teaching.

Bawar has worked in various support positions for the Department of Music since studying for her Bachelor of Music in Composition and Theory from VCU. She began assisting the department as a student employee as a concert hall assistant where she worked lighting and sound for concerts and box office sales. Over the years, she’s even done quite a bit of admissions, marketing, and alumni relations work for the department. Bawar is certainly a “Jane of all Trades” when it comes to music – in the department and beyond.

Outside of her work with VCU’s Department of Music, she is the founder of Piano Basics of Richmond, a local music studio where she teaches private piano lessons to students ages 3-19. Several of her students have moved throughout the country to have successful academic careers in music. In her earlier days of working with VCU Music, she worked in an adjunct faculty position as Suzuki School Coordinator, at VCU’s Community School for the Performing Arts. Yet, Bawar’s goal in teaching, though, is not necessarily to produce music majors or “Future Orchestral Members of America.” In fact, she is interested in developing “the whole child.” Bawar says that she hopes her students develop into “refined people.”

As a child, Bawar was a self-described “navy brat.” Her interests in music were sparked when she began singing in choirs. In high school, she studied music theory – which served as the catalyst for her composition major. In fact, Bawar only had two years of formal piano lessons before starting college. Once she understood theory, she began composing right away, even writing her high school’s annual musical her senior year.

At VCU, she served as a DJ for the radio station. Professors knew her as “the one” who did a lot of work on synthesizers for electronic music (it was the ‘80s, folks!). One piece, a 20-minute electronic selection was truly multi-media, combining audio, visual, and dance performances. Other compositions are as varied as they come, a solo cello serialist composition and a piece for two classical guitars that VCU students have played for ensembles here on campus over the years. Also, many of her pieces contained hallmarks of minimal music.

Though her hope after VCU was to do film music, she soon recognized her calling as an educator. To learn more about the Suzuki field of piano training, Bawar has travelled to Japan twice to study as a master Suzuki teacher and continues to study annually at national institutes. Because of her studies, she is the only teacher in Virginia that currently offers Japanese Suzuki piano training and even apprentices other teachers to learn more about the field.

In addition to her studio teaching, she has been sought out to judge competitions, offer career advice to young musicians, and help prepare students for auditions in musical theatre, voice and piano. Her hobbies include origami, house painting, and solving puzzles. Bawar is married to Curt Blankenship, Concert Hall/Facilities Manager. The couple has two daughters who are also musically inclined – Kayla, 16, who plays cello and Lily, 13, who plays trumpet.

–Raina Fields