Current job title: Director of bands for Bowling Green Independent School District.
Hometown: This should be a simple question to answer, but I have had a hard time identifying with just one place. The top two contenders would be Racine, Wis., and Columbia, Tenn. I lived in both cities for nine years during my crucial years of growing up.
Family: I am a part of a big, boisterous Sri Lankan Tamil family. Almost all of them have beginnings of a new life in a different country. All of us in the first-U.S. born generation love sharing our stories consisting of experiences of American culture served with a side heaping with Sri Lankan culture. We span across four continents. We love to eat. We love to talk over one another. We love spending time together. It has been hard not being able to see everyone! In my immediate family, I have my mother and brother. We have been through so much together and I am grateful for their unconditional love and support.
The one thing nobody knows about me is ... in high school, for an extremely brief amount of time, I was in a progressive metal band. I had to sneak out “for school stuff” to be a part of it!
My dream job is ... I am currently experiencing my dream job! I always wanted to be a band director.
At some point, I did want to pursue a performance career, but I realized quickly that teaching students at the public school level is my biggest passion. The best part of my job is seeing students learn life lessons through pursuing the arts, grow into themselves and plan their own dreams beyond high school.
My first job was ... during my senior year of high school, I got a job at Yankee Candle. Oh, the smells. As a sales associate, my job was to interact with customers to help them find their favorite scents. My self-made pickup line to customers was, “What brings ya in smellin’ today?”
The best advice I ever got was ... learn everyone’s name at every step of the organization at a district, school or community that you are a part of. Secondly, get to know them! My mentors would always add, “Be accommodating to your fellow colleagues, but be especially grateful to the secretaries and maintenance folks. They are the backbone of any organization!”
My heroes and why are ... reflecting on how my parents navigated through the American lifestyle has been very inspiring. I could not imagine coming to a new country with only a functional vocabulary, starting careers and learning everything from scratch. Even though they experienced many growing pains to learn the system, they sought to always give us the world. My other hero is my high school band director, Daryl Jack. He molded my career decisions by giving me endless advice, organizing countless performance opportunities with various people and being an example of a well-rounded band director. He recently passed and there have been many days that I wish I could hear his advice on approaching a difficult situation.
If I could do it over again … I wish I could have learned how to speak Tamil, my family’s language, at a younger age. Communicating with family overseas is always a hilarious and embarrassing experience as I stumble through my pronunciations.
Part of my job I could have done without is ... I am grateful that I have not experienced this during my current and past jobs, but I have seen this in other parts of our country. Arts advocacy is crucial for our existence and it is my utmost hope that we continue to see the arts flourishing! In places where the arts may be cut because of budget reconsiderations, I hope they remain a necessity and find ways to still maintain those programs. I feel the same with all athletics, language/culture organizations and other extracurricular activities that give extra meaning to a student’s education!
The thing I carry with me all the time ... coffee and hand sanitizer. As for the coffee, it is the reason why I am vertical in the mornings. As for hand sanitizer, even before this pandemic hit, I’ve always been a bit of a germaphobe and I can’t go out without it!
The best meals I ever had ... this is difficult! It would be easy to prize a beautiful steak meal, wood-fired pizza, seafood from a nearby coast or Quartino in Chicago. However, I would have to say all of the home-cooked meals from my mother cannot be beat! Her traditional Sri Lankan cooking is spectacular. All of her different curries are just spicy enough with so much flavor.
At the top of my bucket list ... oh, to travel again! I hope to visit every state in the USA to experience the best food in each of those states. After that, every state park, every wonder of the world, every continent, the list goes on.