ECA graduate Dr Alec Cooper has won the prestigious Kala Ratna award for Significant Contribution to Indian Arts at the UK National Indian Arts awards.

As a Music PhD student at ECA, Dr Alec Cooper began directing the university sitar ensemble in 2014.  With founder Laurence Howells, Alec now co-directs TheSitarProject, a community group which has been promoting North Indian classical music throughout Scotland in the form of workshops and concerts for nearly 20 years. 

Through the Reid School of Music’s collaboration with TheSitarProject, Alec’s group sitar classes are available to students across the University and the wider community. These have grown in scale and number since 2014.The community has naturally expanded to accommodate greater levels of expertise as students have progressed. A key part of this success is the availability of sitars for long-term loan, a resource supported by ECA's Reid School of Music and maintained through the collaboration with TheSitarProject. Over 70 Music students at ECA have benefited from this opportunity since 2014.

Ewa Adamiec is now a fourth-year MA Music student who will graduate this summer: “I started learning the sitar as part of my MA Music studies in first year. Even though it was no longer compulsory to my course in second year, I decided to continue, because the opportunity to learn about a completely different culture was rare, and it allowed me to look at music from a completely different perspective. Practising and attending lessons is always very rewarding because it is easy to see progress in your own and in other students' playing. The sitar group works towards performances and concerts which happen every few months - sharing sitar music with western audiences is something that we can all take pride in, because it educates people about music that they might have never considered before. It is amazing that this opportunity was given to us and I'm glad to be able to continue it.”

The National Indian Arts Awards are organised by Milapfest and supported by Arts Council England. The awards honour and celebrate the great contribution of the professionals who have devoted themselves to promoting, nurturing and developing Indian arts across the UK and beyond, as well as the rising stars of Indian music and dance who are shaping these art-forms for future generations. They were established to recognise the work of countless individuals, schools, teachers, performers, and art organisations, up and down the British Isles, who are working tirelessly to provide generous opportunities to learn or experience Indian arts.

Alec graduated from ECA with a PhD in Music in 2018. His doctoral thesis argued that sitar and tabla performances of North Indian classical music are characterised by the performers’ particular experiences of social connectedness. He explored this idea with detailed music analysis and ethnographic fieldwork. He is looking forward to collecting his award at the National Indian Arts Award ceremony, which takes place on Thursday 6th June at the Southbank Centre, London.