AMRITA VIJAYARAGHAVAN

Amrita - a writer, producer, and director-  sprang up like a mushroom under a mossy rock in Beaverton, Oregon, which at the time, was a lot more "I, Tonya" and a lot less "Portlandia." She spent a transplanted adolescence outside of Cleveland, resisting a midwestern accent while fully embracing the sublime convenience of the casserole. Her first paid job was playing violin under a 25-foot animatronic Jesus at an evangelical megachurch.

College swept her to the bucolic Pioneer Valley where she studied mathematics and music at Amherst College. After school, cash poor and full of conviction, she sold her lemon of a car to an ex-boyfriend in order to shore up cash for a security deposit on a New York City apartment. While he was busy replacing timing belts and catalytic converters, Amrita took up a 9 month position in the programming department at Lincoln Center.

 

After a rose-colored season working on the inside of New York’s largest cultural institution, Amrita moved to IMG Artists, managing a portfolio of classical soloists, conductors, and crossover curiosities like bluegrassers Punch Brothers and a musical book tour for New Yorker music critic Alex Ross. While the hours were long, the pay low, and the slacks ill-fitting, Amrita did make a few friends, including Andrew, and began stretching her own artistic and curatorial muscles.

A classically trained violinist, french horn player, and singer in jazz, vernacular, and Indian classical traditions, New York City offered a new and much bigger playground for new music-making. Amrita dove into Carnatic vocal performance in earnest and performed frequently at concerts, festivals and for dance.

After weathering the worst years of the recession in the music industry, Amrita fled for the relatively secure shores of print media, where she parlayed her agency work into venue production at the New York Times managing operations at the TimesCenter. There, she worked with hundreds of nonprofit and corporate clients like Starbucks, Mastercard, Unicef and the Oprah Winfrey Network. Under her team’s auspices, the venue rose to unprecedented profitability. Although the venue saw great growth, she does have regrets; most notably, saying no to that installation of a 5,000-gallon water tank filled with human mermaids.

 

After making the extremely satisfying leap to freelance life, Amrita began a new venture handling the operations and finances of the NYC offices of a global humanitarian NGO -- there she drafted and balanced annual operational budgets and built financial systems, while experiencing the horrifying fishbowl of humanity inside an all-glass coworking space.

 

Currently, Amrita is Managing Director of Heartbeat Opera, a progressive and innovative NYC-based company. She also holds her dream job, Co-founder of her company Vijay & Stephens. As part of V&S, Amrita writes, produces, directs, a variety of live, written, and recorded projects. Her work can be seen on stages, screens, and podcasting platforms near you.

ANDREW STEPHENS

Born and raised in the foothills of North Georgia, Andrew is a writer/producer/director. He got his start working in the baby clothes section at Sears. From there, fate and talent took him to Chilis Restaurant and Bar where he once earned a $500 gift certificate for selling the most margaritas in the region.

 

Ever practical, Andrew graduated high school early to earn a degree in classical music at the University of Michigan. He again graduated as early as he could and jumped ship for Orlando, where he took a six month assignment at Disney World producing events while the rest of his friends weathered another wretched winter under Midwestern skies.

 

After Disney, high on vitamin D and Cracker Barrel mac-n-cheese, Andrew moved to NYC, securing a job in the Performing Arts Department at Pace University mere seconds before the 2008 financial crash. While there, Andrew music directed a main stage production, taught music theory courses, coached singers, directed the school’s choir, and was entrusted as an academic advisor to students who were legit only a year younger than him. During this time he also maintained a staff singing position at Calgary-St. George’s Church where he was a featured soloist in recitals and special programs.

 

Andrew next moved to IMG Artists where he worked in the booking department, selling classical, jazz, and dance acts to venues across North and South America. This was about as fun as it sounds. On the plus side, he did meet Amrita Vijay during this time and, after bonding during an ill-planned weekend vacation to Miami, the two started producing events and creating original works together.

 

Weary of working 60 hours a week for peanuts, Andrew called an employment agency and asked for a job with reasonable hours, lots of vacation, and low stress. That’s how he ended up working in the admissions department of a private Quaker school in the city. Over three admissions seasons, Andrew met a who’s-who of the city including celebrities, titans of industry, and most notably a family who insisted that their names be spelled in all lowercase.

 

With a growing portfolio of creative and production work, Andrew left the Quakers for a part time job managing finances and grants at a food nonprofit. While there, Andrew successfully managed millions of dollars from private and public funding sources and was able to eventually integrate the organization into a large national nonprofit that shared a similar vision. From there, Andrew consulted with a nonprofit focused on “impact investment,” worked on strategy for a Japanese educational startup, provided marketing oversite to a summer music festival in the wilds of Connecticut, handled finances for a small subsidiary of Sony Records, and supported the growth of a Boston-based opera company whose work has been featured in the New York Times and Vogue.

 

Today, as part of Vijay & Stephens, Andrew writes, produces, and directs a variety of live and recorded projects. His work can be seen in many well known venues around the city, heard anywhere you get your podcasts, and seen on screens in the very near future.

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