WALTHAM, MA– MITHAS founder George Ruckert and New England’s Kathak dance pioneer Gretchen Hayden Ruckert will be honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the New England Choice Awards gala on October 27th by INE Multimedia, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization devoted to promoting and supporting charitable organizations, art, culture, education and empowerment.
About 400 entrepreneurs, corporate executives, philanthropists, educators and community leaders are expected to attend the awards gala that will be held at Westin Hotel in Waltham, MA.
George Ruckert, a performer, composer, arranger, author and a teacher of music at MIT, is the founder of MIT’s Heritage of the Arts of South Asia, known as MITHAS, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. His wife Gretchen Ruckert is an internationally recognized performer and teacher of kathak dance, and is the senior-most disciple of the renowned master and guru, the late Pandit Chitresh Das. She has dedicated the last twenty-three years to fostering kathak dance in New England. She and her husband, a sarodist, are bearers of this tradition, carrying on the legacy of kathak and Hindustani music established in the United States and India by Pandit Das and Ustad Ali Akbar Khan.
“Gretchen and I are the recipients of the bountiful teachings of Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and kathak master Pandit Chitresh Das, who pioneered in bringing their arts of Hindustani music and dance to the US for more than forty years,” said George Ruckert. “We are grateful that the South Asian community of Boston has recognized their immense contributions through our own teachings and presentations at MITHAS and Chhandika.”
“It is an enormous privilege for us to honor George Ruckert and Gretchen Hayden with the Lifetime Achievement award,” said Dr. Manju Sheth, MD, president of INE MultiMedia. “They have dedicated their entire lives to Indian Classical music and dance .They are not only exceptional artists but also great human beings. Please join us on October 27 at Westin Hotel in Waltham to salute and celebrate their extraordinary contributions and legacy.”
The husband and wife team of George and Gretchen will be honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by INE MultiMedia and INDIA New England News, the region’s oldest and largest print, online and video magazine. In addition to honoring the Ruckerts with the Lifetime Achievement Award, INE will also honor New England’s 10 shining stars for their outstanding contributions in the following areas: Academics, Art and Culture, Business and Entrepreneurship, Community Service, Healthcare, Non-Profit Organization, Philanthropy and Youth Leadership. BMW of Sudbury and Dharani Restaurant Group have joined New England Choice Awards 2017 as platinum sponsors.
“They are truly a rare breed of artists, who have not only pioneered and promoted Indian classical music and dance, but also have an extensive background in the disciplines of both western and Indian classical music,” said Upendra Mishra, publisher of INDIA New England News and the IndUS Business Journal. “The entire South Asian community is very proud of their work and dedication to South Asian music, art and culture in the United States.”
George Ruckert’s musical training began in early childhood, when his mother, the former Lavinia Norton, herself a music and dance teacher, introduced him to the piano, which he also studied with Fritz Thor and Amelia Mitrani. He went on to earn his masters degree in western music theory and composition from Queens College in New York City.
It was soon after this that he was introduced to the music of the legendary sarod master, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, and made the challenging decision to set aside his academic studies in order to embark on his path of discipleship under this great maestro. As one of the senior-most disciples of Khansahib, he focused his attention on sarod and vocal music for more than thirty years. During this period he earned the Gayan and Vadya Bid degree in 1975 and also served for many years as teacher and Director of the Ali Akbar College of Music near San Francisco.
As a solo artist on the sarod, he has performed, recorded, and taught in India, Europe, and the United States. He has also recorded and performed with several of India’s finest vocalists on the harmonium.
While at the Ali Akbar College, he was also introduced to the world of Kathak dance through the work of Kathak dance-master Chitresh Das of Calcutta. He was called upon to compose for the choreography of Mr. Das, and arranged much of this music for the innovative east-west ensemble, the New Maihar Band. He has composed not only for traditional dance dramas, such as Giri Govardhan and Sita Haran, but also for Mr. Das’ original work, The Gold Rush.
In 1992 he earned his Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology from University of California at Berkeley with his dissertation on the music of Ali Akbar Khan. He has written a highly acclaimed textbook presenting the music of Khansahib, and is a published author of numerous articles and books about Indian classical music and artists. He is frequently called upon to write articles about India’s most prominent musical talents and liner notes for CDs as well. His recent books are Music in North India, published by Oxford U. Press, and an annotated anthology of the Cape Breton fiddle music: The Music of John Campbell—A Cape Breton Legacy.
Mr. Ruckert presently resides in the Boston area and is a Senior Lecturer Emeritus at MIT, where he teaches western, World, and Indian classical music, while continuing his performing career on the sarod. His in-depth of knowledge of both western and eastern traditions, puts him in great demand to give concerts, workshops and lecture-demonstrations throughout the US and abroad. He is one of the founders of and Artistic Director of MITHAS.
Gretchen Hayden is the daughter of actor/author/seafarer Sterling Hayden and Betty deNoon Hayden, and credits both for filling her developing years with art, beauty, nature, creativity and original thinking.
She is an internationally recognized performer and teacher of kathak dance, and is senior-most disciple of the renowned master and guru, Pandit Chitresh Das. Ms. Hayden has dedicated the last twenty-three years to fostering kathak in New England.
Together the couple, and with a few others, they initiated the founding of MITHAS. Their collaborative original works weave tradition into innovative dance solos and dramas, including The Legend of St. Lucy, The Story of Dymphna, and Kore.
Established in 2002, her school Chhandika (Chhandam Institute of Kathak Dance) is a vigorous non-profit organization, offering classes and outreach programs in the greater Boston area.
Chhandika’s endeavors also include the training of next generation kathak soloists, teachers and the Chhandika Youth Ensemble. Ms.Hayden has been teaching accredited kathak dance courses at Tufts University and Wellesley College for the past sixteen years, and is a frequent guest lecturer in MIT’s World Music classes.