A.P. Anderson Award
for Outstanding Contributions to Literature and the Arts in Minnesota
The annual award is named for Dr. Alexander P. Anderson, who invented the process for creating Quaker Puffed Rice and Puffed Wheat cereals. An educator, botanist, writer and naturalist, Anderson built the Tower View Estate, which today is stewarded by the Anderson Center who operates the historic site as a hub to develop, foster and promote creative endeavors and the exchange of ideas.
Watch for a save date soon for the June 2024 A.P. Anderson Gala, an annual signature event for the Anderson Center at Tower View. Taking place outdoors on the Anderson Center’s Rooftop Deck, the Gala combines the A.P. Anderson Award ceremony program with a fundraising benefit for the venerable non-profit arts institution featuring a silent auction, wine raffle, live music, and a gourmet plated dinner.
2023 A.P. Anderson Awardee
The Anderson Center at Tower View in Red Wing, Minnesota, honors musician, composer, and educator Nirmala Rajasekar with the 2023 A.P. Anderson Award for her significant contributions to the cultural and artistic life of Minnesota. A public ceremony took place on Thursday, June 8, 2023 at 5:30 p.m.
“Nirmala is an internationally recognized star in her field, as well as a strong leader and mentor,” says Stephanie Rogers, Executive and Artistic Director of the Anderson Center. “Multiple nominators pointed out that Nirmala has been integral to fostering a community where diverse artists can thrive, opening doors for the next generations of musicians in Minnesota and around the country.”
“As an organization based in Greater Minnesota,” Rogers elaborates, “we admire how Nirmala’s extensive touring has brought Carnatic music to every corner of the state, reducing geographic barriers to the shared cultural understanding that artistic exchange can cultivate.”
A dynamic performer, composer, educator, presenter, and leader in the arts, Nirmala Rajasekar was born in the city of Chennai on India's southeast coast and moved to Minnesota in 1995. One of the top Saraswathi veena players and Carnatic musicians in the world, Rajasekar has made it her life’s mission to propagate this cultural art form worldwide. She is at the vanguard of artists working to make the world more equitable for all.
"It's most gratifying to receive this award in my adopted home of Minnesota, which in addition to the cold and tundra-like conditions has the warmest people!” Rajasekar shares. “In all my travels across our state, in communities large and small, I have felt welcomed. Minnesota has the best of community. So, it is a matter of pride for me to be recognized with this prestigious honor by the Anderson Center, giving me more fuel and energy to keep powering onward.”
Nirmala has taken the veena across the globe, from venues such as Carnegie Hall and the United Nations to public libraries, senior citizens’ homes, universities, and schools. Across her four-decade career, she has been a trailblazer in traditional and collaborative spaces. Nirmala’s extensive list of accolades celebrates her virtuosity, her vision, and her dedicated service to art and community. She is a “Kalaimamani” Awardee, the highest honor in the arts, presented by the Government of Tamil Nadu, India. Her recording with the 3-time Grammy-award-winning group Sounds of Blackness won “Outstanding World Music Album of the Year” from the NAACP Image Awards. She has been feted with Vocational Excellence awards from Rotary Club International. The legendary Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna conferred the title, “Nada Kala Vipanchee” (meaning “Divine Sound of the Saraswathi”) upon Nirmala. She has received the national TRS Memorial Award for excellence in teaching. She was named a “Pratibha Puraskar” (Genius Award) by the Delhi Telugu Academy. And in Minnesota, she has received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the India Association of Minnesota and is blessed to be the “Asthana Vidwan” (“Honorary Resident Musician”) of the Hindu Society of Minnesota.
Nirmala is the Chair of the national organization the American Composers Forum. A sought-after composer, Nirmala was the 2020 Annual Commissioned Composer of the University of Wisconsin–River Falls. Nirmala is a Bush and McKnight Fellow. Her creative work has been supported by New Music USA, the Jerome Foundation, Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, and the Minnesota State Arts Board. Nirmala’s cross-cultural ensemble Maithree features renowned players Michelle Kinney (cello), Pat O’Keefe (winds), Tim O’Keefe (percussion) and Thanjavur K. Murugaboopathi (mridangam).
Nirmala’s work in promoting intercultural understanding has been lauded for decades; the press frequently refers to her as “the Carnatic Ambassador.” Nirmala serves as the Vice President of the Global Carnatic Musicians’ Association, where she has facilitated grants, pandemic relief, and scholarships for artists and instrument makers, and has worked to develop a healthcare-for-all policy -that is revolutionary in the arts. As an educator, Nirmala has lectured and presented in universities and music conferences around the world. She is passionate about providing access to the arts: Nirmala has been a teaching artist for COMPAS for nearly 20 years, crisscrossing the state to take the veena and Carnatic music everywhere.
Nirmala is the Founder and Artistic Director of the Naadha Rasa Center for Music. She has been teaching all over the world for the past 40 years. In 2019 & 2023, Nirmala directed a diverse ensemble of Veena players and Carnatic musicians at the international Cleveland Thyagaraja Festival for over 5000 attendees. In 2019, Nirmala founded “Naadharasa,” a charitable organization run by community members that propagates her legacy of artistic excellence, promotes cultural exchange and provides arts access to all.
The annual award is named for Dr. Alexander P. Anderson, who invented the process for creating Quaker Puffed Rice and Puffed Wheat cereals. An educator, botanist, writer and naturalist, Anderson built Tower View Estate, which today is stewarded by the Anderson Center who operates the historic site as a hub to develop, foster and promote creative endeavors and the exchange of ideas.
Past recipients include last year’s recipient, author Kao Kalia Yang, and choreographer/scholar Ananya Chatterjea, musician Butch Thompson, actor/director Lou Bellamy, sculptor/architect Siah Armajani, poets Robert Bly & William Duffy, sculptor Judy Onofrio, author Louise Erdrich, and storyteller Kevin Kling.
AP Anderson Award 2018
2023 Nirmala Rajasekar
2022 Kao Kalia Yang
2019 Mary Ann Grossmann
2018 Judy Onofrio
2017 Lou Bellamy
2016 Cynthia Gehrig
2015 Butch Thompson
2014 Kate DiCamillo
2013 Louise Erdrich
2012 Larry Yazzie
2011 Lawrence Redmond and
2010 Emilie Buchwald
2009 Kevin Kling
2008 Jim Brandenburg
2007 Warren MacKenzie
2006 Lise Houlton
2005 Phillip Brunelle
2004 Betsy Bowen
2003 Patricia Hampl
2002 Siah Armajani
2001 Libby Larsen
2000 Joe Dowling
1999 Robert Bly and