Class of 2014
His Vision: Sharing the life-changing power of sensitivity through music and more
At Green School, our focus on empowering students and building confidence means our alumni aren’t afraid to follow a less traditional path after graduation. Instead, they’re proving how leaping into the unknown can result in some truly incredible opportunities…like becoming a musician in one of India’s popular folk bands!
Achyuth Jaigopal, lead guitarist and co-founder of India’s popular band, When Chai Met Toast (WCMT), originally came to Green School as one of our “Greenest Student on Earth” scholars. In an interview with India news outlet, The Hindu, he describes how a visit to our bamboo Bali school with his parents motivated him to want to enroll:
“What I saw there left me stunned. The natural, holistic, student-centred education in an amazing environment completely bowled me over. I longed to be part of it and told my parents about this,” says Achyuth, who has been learning to play the guitar since he was eight.
Despite his obvious passion for music, Achyuth first thought he might want to be an architect like his parents. He was certainly surrounded by examples of award-winning, sustainable architecture at Green School. Yet during his years in Bali, Achyuth was encouraged to also explore his other loves – one of them being music.
“I don’t think I would be doing this [music] if I didn’t go to Green School,” explains Achyuth. “The whole education system in India is such that once you enter 11th or 12th grade you don’t have time to look into anything besides entrance exams. ” At Green School, Achyuth loved being able to learn a variety of additional subjects, including entrepreneurship, poetry,, media studies and graphic design – all of which have supported his current career in music.
One thing Achyuth really loved about his Green School education was the hands-on, experiential approach to learning.“I remember taking a class called ‘Your Big Idea’ with Ibu Nikki, where you had to come up with an entrepreneurial idea and execute it in the real world,” says Achyuth, who chose to organise a concert to raise money for The Paradigm Shift Project. The Paradigm Shift Project’s mission is to inspire meaningful global connection through documentary films that share best practices, the wisdom of unheard communities, and sustainable solutions from around the world. “I spent a month coordinating with the venue, selling tickets, and marketing the event to parents of Green School students and campus visitors.”
“When Achyuth discovered that a visual arts portfolio would be a large part of his entry requirement into college, he was in the art studio every day for 6 weeks, surprising even himself with the quality of his work,” says Ibu Jen, his then art teacher Green School. “That’s the thing about the Green School curriculum, we don’t put students in boxes with what we teach. The High School classes are a unique 6-week program and the students have covered topics such as animation, stone sculpture, ceramics, printmaking, painting and digital media.”
All of this experience flexing his creative muscles at Green School meant that, when his big moment came, Achyuth was ready.
Shortly after returning to India, Achyuth auditioned for the chance to tour with the famous Raghu Dixit Project…and got the part! Despite the fact that he’d already been accepted to the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, Achyuth opted to defer college and join the band. Ultimately, he spent a year and a half doing nearly 150 shows across India, the UK, Spain, Sri Lanka, the US and more. During this time, he also started WCMT, which quickly gained notoriety after one of their songs was featured in a popular TV Show.
Since then, WCMT has continued to grow in popularity, eventually expanding to become a four person band. Achyuth also went back to complete his degree in music from Berklee via online school, and graduated in May 2020.
Reflecting on his experience at Green School and its impact on his music career, Achyuth notes that it was a combination of the music program and being surrounded by different cultures and people with different backgrounds that made him the artist he is today. Green School helped him better be able to put himself in other people’s shoes, and have empathy for their experiences, one of the core Green School Values that are embedded into all the coursework
Achyuth in fact did his “Greenstone” project – a senior year capstone project delivered to a live audience in a TEDtalk style presentation – on the subject of sensitivity. He understands the role sensitivity plays in creating music that connects with people. “For me, sensitivity is about taking a step back and thinking about the greater good before thinking about yourself. It’s about having a sense of compassion for others.”
His enduring sensitivity can be felt in every song he plays with WCMT. It’s one of the reasons the band continues to grow in popularity. In the future, Achyuth hopes to continue having a positive impact on the world through his music, and other entrepreneurial endeavors. While we wait to see what other success this artist achieves, we leave you with one of our favorite of his poems:
Achyuth’s Poem on Sensitivity
In every song that strikes the soul and aspires to be bold
In every life –generating seed grown and pristine forest preserved not sold
In every beautiful building built sensibly in harmony with its’ surroundings
In every drop of water saved and energy produced sustainably
In every fresh meal deliciously cooked to perfection
In every rupiah earned through hard work and good intention
In every helping hand and smile spreading collective joy
In every positive action that values the world before oneself
I experience sensitivity