published Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

Charitable teen sees links between arts and community outreach

Anjali Chandra, 15, the assistnat principal violist in the Chattanooga Symphony and Opera Youth Symphony and principal violist with the GPS/McCallie Honors Orchestra, rehearses with the Honors Orchestra at McCallie.
Anjali Chandra, 15, the assistnat principal violist in the Chattanooga Symphony and Opera Youth Symphony and principal violist with the GPS/McCallie Honors Orchestra, rehearses with the Honors Orchestra at McCallie.
Photo by Allison Love.

ABOUT HER

School: 10th-grader at Girls Preparatory School.

Siblings: Sister, Alisha, 5.

Hobbies: Playing music, volunteering and cooking healthy food.

Favorite piece to play: Viola Concerto by Franz Anton Hoffmeister.

HOW TO GIVE

To donate to GlobalEXCEL, Anjali Chandra's charitable outreach for children at home and abroad, call 648-8008, email info@globalexcel.org or send a tax-deductible donation to:

GlobalEXCEL

6073 East Brainerd Road

Chattanooga, TN 37421

At the end of a brief demonstration of her skills as a student of a classical Indian dance, Anjali Chandra was visibly drained.

The fluid, physically demanding limb movements and emotive expressions required of the dance, bharatanatyam, left the 15-year-old short of breath but visibly pleased by her performance.

"I like the fact that I feel graceful and kind of free when I do it," she explained. "Your heart is fluttering throughout when you're doing the dance, and at the end, you're exhausted."

At age 5, Anjali began splitting her focus between dancing and playing music. She currently serves as the principal violist in Girls Preparatory School's school orchestra, collaborative honors orchestra with McCallie School and its elite string ensemble, Tango.

Even after a decade of studying the arts, however, Anjali said her greatest drive is to use her gifts to connect with and help others.

Her dream, she said, is to play music and dance in healing sessions for victims of human trafficking, prostitution and other abuses through Maiti Nepal, an organization founded to support Nepali women.

Reaching out to others has been a lifelong impulse for Anjali, a student at Girls Preparatory School.

At age 5, she began volunteering with her mother at nursing homes and has been helping her parents at community kitchens "since she was old enough to splash peanut butter and jelly on bread," her mother said.

"She has a soft spot for people who aren't as fortunate as her," Lotika Chandra said. "As she grew older, she realized she has things that other people don't have, so this is her way to do whatever little things she can for them and give back to the community."

When Anjali turned 8, Chandra said, she asked friends attending her birthday party to bring paper towels, toothpaste and other donations for the Ronald McDonald House instead of presents.

In sixth grade, after years of visiting India with her family and seeing underprivileged children in threadbare clothing struggling to help support their families, Anjali started GlobalEXCEL, a charitable nonprofit to extend educational opportunities to them.

She used her birthday party that year as an impromptu fundraiser, resulting in more than $2,000 in donations to the organization.

"I like volunteering where I can work with children," Anjali said. "With that, it kind of started off my interest in volunteering."

In the last couple of years, Anjali has contributed her time, energy and artistic talents to many programs at home and abroad. During other trips to India, she has taught classes in English and basic computer skills at schools set up through government funding and by various organizations.

She has helped teach piano and recorder lessons to students at The Salvation Army School of Music & Art and last week began teaching a cultural education class to students in the East Lake community.

After years of regularly performing bharatanatyam dances at Chattanooga Market and Creative Discovery Museum, Anjali said she hopes to incorporate her love of dance into the program, using the style's millennia-long ties to Indian culture as a way to broaden her students' horizons.

"I'm hoping to tie in all aspects of my culture and bring in speakers so they can gain a kind of global perspective, which they probably don't have the opportunity to do at their own school," she said. "I have a lot of activities planned for the children to experience the different parts of the culture, like the clothing and customs and language and the arts especially."

In addition to her performing acumen, Anjali also is a good student. This May, her science project on the ties between aluminum compounds and birth defects in brine shrimp won second place in the regional science fair, earning her a trip to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Pittsburgh.

Anjali said she will measure her future success on her ability to help others, whether as a doctor -- a goal shared by her physician parents -- a dancer, a musician or some combination of the three.

Achieving that, she said, would really leave her breathless.

TALENT SHOW

Do you know a child age 17 or younger with a precocious talent in academics, athletics or the arts? The Times Free Press is searching for children to feature in "Talent Show," which appears in the Life section on Tuesdays. To nominate a child as a possible subject of a future feature article, email staff writer Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfreepress.com or call him at 423-757-6205.

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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