When his ‘LokuThaththa’ (maternal grandfather), welknown scholar and writer, brought him a gift ‘box’ when he was just five year-old and ask him not to open it until he bring a teacher, Sulara would not have ever thought that the ‘gift’ in the magic box would have given him wings to fly across the world [...]


Master violinist dreaming to share the love for music

Sulara Ferdinand Nanayakkara- Sri Lanka’s first youngest violinist to become Grammy Nominated Recording Artiste


Sulara Ferdinand Nanayakkara

When his ‘LokuThaththa’ (maternal grandfather), well-known scholar and writer in the area, brought him a gift ‘box’ when he was just five years and asked him not to open it until he brings a teacher, Sulara would not have ever thought that the ‘gift’ in the magic box would have given him wings to fly across the world with his musical talents. Not even his grandfather, Cyril Jayasekara, wouldhave thought that his grandson would become one of the best violinists in the country.  Grandfather Cyril himself had dreamt of being a good violinist after he graduated in Sinhala and Buddhism from the then VidyodayaPiriven now known as the Sri Jayawardenapura University.

“It was my Lokuthaththa’s dream to make me a violinist. Even though my parents lived in Kandana, most of my childhood was spent in the beautiful village atDunakadeniya off Marawila where my grandparents lived. I loved the village and its environment so much,” said Sulara Ferdinand Nanayakkara, (28), a renowned violinist who earned his Master of Music Degree (M.M) in Violin performance from the Esther Boyer College of Music and Dance at Temple University at Philadelphia in the United States, last year.

“So while I was anxiously awaiting to see what was inside the box, Lokuthaththa brought Mr. LalPerera my first violin teacher. He is the son of the late J. K. S. Perera who made a yeoman contribution to theChristianity in Sri Lanka writing a large number of Sinhala hymns and setting music for them. Lal sir introduced the violin and I learnt it until the age of 12 ,” said Sulara who was ever grateful to his first teacher who taught him this somewhat ‘difficult’ musical instrument without making him bored.

However Mr. Perera who realisedSulara’s natural talent for music advised him that he needed to get on to the next level of violin and for that Sulara should go to a better qualified teacher in Colombo.
“Since my mother knew Master PremasiriKhemadasa she took me to him and having tested my violin skills master said “Me Kollawa Honda KenekLangataYawannaona” (This child should be sent to a good teacher) and I was introduced to Lakshman Joseph de Sarem, who was my second teacher,” Sulara described his journey to become a master violinist.

Under internationally renowned violinist Mr. Sarem, Sulara further mastered his violin and at the age 14 he was selected to play in the Chamber Music Society of Colombo from its inception and later he was promoted as Principal Second Violinist of the orchestra.
From Mr. Sarem, Sulara joined renowned violinist AnandaDabare as his third teacher. While learning under Mr. Dabare, Sulara was also selected to play in the Junior Symphony Orchestra of Sri Lanka and he was the leader of the orchestra for two seasons.
In 2009 Sulara was also selected to play Symphony Orchestra of Sri Lanka. When his teacher AnandaDabare left,Sulara was assign to be the Leader of the orchestra.


With his rare talent, Sulara, from his younger age started winning awards for his performance. Having obtained Associate and Licentiate Diplomas in Violin Recital from the Trinity College of London (ATCL, LTCL), from 2001 to 2010, ten long consecutive years he won the Gold medals and All Island awards at the Sri Lanka Festival of Music, Dance and Speech organized by the British and International Federation of Festivals for Music. In 2007 having been awarded the “Scholarship Winner Trophy”,  he obtained the Award for the Best Violinist at the Sri Lanka Festival of Music, Dance and Speech affiliated to the British and International Federation of Festivals for Music.In 2006 he became the island-wide winner of the “Intermediate Violin” category, in the bi-annual Young Musician of the Year competition organised by the Institute of Western Music and Speech.

In 2012, the Symphony Orchestra of Sri Lanka selected Sulara as one of the four musicians to be sent to Britain for a two week study and he was the youngest among team.
During his trip to British he attended a Master class conducted by Gregory Lynn, a First violinist of the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Sulara was also able to play in a British orchestra called the Sidcup Symphony Orchestra in London.

Sulara was invited in 2015 to perform as a soloist at the “Symphony for a child” concert held at the Regent Hall in London. It was organised by concert pianist SrimaJayasekera.

In 2012 at the age of 20 Sulara was selected to be a visiting lecturer for Violin performance at the University of Visual and Performing arts and he continued to teach till 2017. He was a Co-leader of the Symphony Orchestra of Sri Lanka (SOSL), and is the Principal Second Violinist of the Chamber Music Society of Colombo (CMSC).

In the field of popular film and teledrama music in Sri Lanka, Sulara was the youngest violinist to perform under the direction of the late, world-renowned maestro, Kala Keerthi Dr. PremasiriKhemadasa. He appeared as a section violinist as well as a solo violinist in many of his recordings for music for television dramas, films and his final opera “Agni” produced by Master Khemadasa.

In 2017 Sulara got a prestigious opportunity to study for a Master’s degree in violin in the US. In 2019, Sulara, earned a Master of Music Degree (M.M) in Violin performance from the Esther Boyer College of Music and Dance at Temple University in Philadelphia , studying under Professor Meichen Liao-Barnes who also the associate Concertmaster of the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia and Dr. Eduard Schmieder,  the Laura H. Carnell Professor of Violin, Artistic director of Strings at the Esther Boyer College of Music and renowned juror of many International violin competitions.

Sulara was a first violinist of the Grammy-nominated Temple University Symphony Orchestra and later, he was appointed as the Assistant Principal Second violinist and had the privilege to perform under renowned conductors such as Maestro Andreas Delfs,Kensho Watanabe, and David Hayes, Music Director of the New York Choral Society.

As a performer, Sulara had also premiered and recorded many new music compositions by graduate students. To have performed under the six time Grammy-award winning composer Vince Mendoza at the world première of his new composition “Constant Renaissance” commissioned by the Temple University Studio Orchestra at the Kimmel Center was one of Sulara’s memorable moments. The recording earnedSulara the titleof Grammy Nominated recording artist and the music piece was nominated for two Grammy Awards, “Best Instrumental Composition” and “Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella” in 2019.

Last year Sulara was invited to perform in the Bangalore City chamber of Orchestra, the only professional chamber orchestra in India.
With all these achievements Sulara’s mission is to share the knowledge he gathered from all over the world with the children far away from Colombo and produce musicians among them.

“We need lot of discipline to learn Western Classical music Sularawho has dedicated his life to teaching and sharing his knowledge on violin and Western classical music” said Sularaadding  “One of my dreams is to take Western classical music to outstations and make few orchestras outside Colombo”.
“I want to go to outstations and play some classical music and conduct some master classes,” says Sulara. 
“There is some exposure to western classical music in Colombo but outstation even a talented child could not be identified as he or she is not exposed to this music. We should give that exposure to them as well. By doing this we might be able to find new musicians and music creators from our rural villages,”.

With this aim Sulara has dedicated most of his time for teaching specially in his home town Kadana. However Sulara says that to learn Western classical music a person needs lot of discipline. “This applies not only to Western classical music but even for Hindustani or Eastern classical music,”.
Sulara is grateful to his parents specially mother ManikJayasekara, a singer herself, grandparents, all his teachers here and abroad for all their support.

A devout Christian,Sulara strongly believes that God has blessed him with talent for music and this is a mission he was called for. “I have a deep experience that I have got everything from God. Like others there were ups and downs in my journey but I have experiencedthe power of God. I always start my day and everything I do telling 'Thanks be to God always'”.



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