Sandy Asirvatham—known artistically as Sandhya—is a writer, musician, and producer living in Baltimore, although forever a New Yorker at heart.
After earning a BA and MFA from Columbia University, she worked prolifically for several years as a freelance journalist and young adult nonfiction author, and was twice awarded with a Best Columnist honor by the Maryland Association of Professional Journalists.
At 33 or so, in the midst of cascading personal crises, she got pulled back into an old childhood dream. Via obsessive study and practice, she willed herself into the role of working jazz pianist and singer. While raising her son, she gigged throughout the mid-Atlantic, with a few choice hits in NYC.
By her early 40s, she had turned herself into a fledgling composer and lyricist. She produced a collection of originals called MEMOIR (2007)—mini-fictions set to eclectic jazz-pop grooves. Historian/critic W. Royal Stokes named it a Best Jazz Debut in that year’s Village Voice roundup, and Baltimore magazine’s John Lewis said of the artist:
“….she walks a fine line between singer/songwriter and jazz chanteuse with some Tin Pan Alley in the mix, smartly turning phrases and crafting peculiarly appealing melodies…poetic, personal lyrics richly underscored by her idiosyncratic piano playing and tasteful accompaniment…”
Later she brought a quirky, ambitious personal dream to fruition: MOBTOWN MOON, a genre-defying, fully reimagined homage to Pink Floyd’s THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON, co-produced by singer-songwriter Ellen Cherry and featuring over 50 Baltimore-based musicians in a crazy blend of styles. The project was hailed by Floyd fans and music journalists all over the world.
Her skills as an executive producer led to a business partnership with a longtime TV-spot director; during their 3 active years together, they received an Emmy for a cowritten Public Service Announcement.
Sandy (as then called) enjoyed the video business but was antsy to get back to her primary arts. She wound down the partnership to concentrate again on writing, and finally finished a book-length memoir that had been ten years in the making. Called PLAY IT BY EAR: AN AMERICAN ANTHEM, it’s a story about using music to heal childhood wounds and forge an authentic identity, set against broad, deep changes in American culture from the 1970s to today. (She is currently seeking publication.)
In 2018 she began working closely with renowned vocal instructor and producer Pete Strobl (best known for coaching Eddie Van Halen and his son Wolfie). Together they are busy completing INNOCENT MONSTER, 10 new original songs that map out a journey from contemplative jazz-influenced singer-songwriter to full-on art-rock diva. Having worked her way toward both technical mastery and profound self-possession, Sandy has reemerged as Sandhya (SUN-thee-ah), the name her Indian immigrant parents gave her upon her arrival in hospital in Pittsburgh PA.