Bharat and Anne Chandra have been thinking about KAETA for a long time. They’ve thought about it and talked about it the way couples think about and talk about having babies. They knew it would be time-consuming, an undertaking. They knew it would devour hours of their free time, which as professional orchestra musicians and parents of 2-year-old daughter, is already a precious commodity.
They knew it would mean hashing out problems, brainstorming logo ideas and website design. They knew their mission would have to be firm and their focus clear. They knew there would be paperwork.
“We’re idealists,” Anne Chandra says, smiling at the innocence of this assertion.
There are two types of do-gooders in Sarasota: those who volunteer for nonprofit organizations and those who form them. The Chandras went for the latter.
KAETA — an acronym that stands for Kids and Elders Through Arts — is an idea the Chandras hatched more than a year ago.
The organization, as the name suggests, matches local children with elders in retirement communities for the common purpose of working on an artistic venture together.
Last month, the organization paired up five students with residents living in Plymouth Harbor.
One student, a senior at St. Stephens Episcopal School, in Bradenton, is composing an original piece of music inspired by his elders’ lives. Another student, an aspiring photographer, is taking a series of photographs of a 92-year-old woman.
“It seemed like such a natural fit,” Anne says of the program. “To be honest, it seemed like something that should have existed already.”
It is the Chandras’ attempt to bridge Sarasota’s most obvious generation gaps, all the while cultivating an appreciation for the arts through a relationship model they feel has faded — the bond between the old and the young.
The couple has found that a lot of children are growing up without grandparents or with little connection to their grandparents, simply because people are having children older and moving more often.
Given the Chandras’ day jobs with the Sarasota Orchestra — Bharat, 36, is the principal clarinetist, and Anne, 36, is a violinist — they hope one day they can form a “side-by-side orchestra” (i.e.: an orchestra comprised of musically-inclined elders and children.)
Eventually, they’d like to develop a scholarship program.
“KAETA lends itself to so many ideas on any budget,” Bharat says. “It’s not like the organization is sitting there demanding tremendous resources.”
The couple first recognized the spark between young people and older audiences when they began asking their private music students to perform recitals at area retirement communities.
“The communication between the kids and the elders was such a beautiful thing,” Bharat says. “It became clear there was a need to provide a connection.”
Not since the Chandras doggedly renovated their two-bedroom home a few years ago have they worked so hard at following through on a vision.
KAETA, which achieved 501(c)(3) status late this summer, is only in the beginning stages.
Last week, Bharat appeared as a guest speaker at the Kiwanis Club of Longboat Key to discuss the organization and its upcoming Nov. 6 launch at Plymouth Harbor.
The official launch, though only open to the Plymouth Harbor residents, will show off KAETA’s month-long student/resident art collaborations and serve as a test model for future programs.
“Our goal is to be one of the few nonprofits that comes to the top of your head when you think of Sarasota,” Bharat says. “We want it to be perfectly executed.”
Perched beside his wife on an orange sofa in their North Sarasota home, he turns to Anne for reassurance. She nods. They smile in a way that indicates they’re used to working together.
The couple met when they were 26 and performing at the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Tanglewood Music Festival. Bharat describes the encounter as love at first sight — with one caveat: When the eight-week festival was over, Bharat was bound for Florida, where he had just landed the principal clarinetist position at the Sarasota Orchestra, and Anne was bound for New York City, where she was teaching violin at a music academy.
The couple feared their long-distance relationship would wane, until a handful of violin seats opened up at the Sarasota Orchestra and Anne auditioned the following season.
“I practiced like I never practiced before,” she says.
About KAETA, Chandra says they want it to be “shimmering with positive energy.”
It’s hard to imagine the Chandras creating anything that doesn’t shimmer with positive energy.
Their precocious daughter, Eila, is a bundle of positive energy. The toddler’s latest pastime — strumming “A Spoonful of Sugar” on her inflatable guitar — is a YouTube sensation waiting to happen.
“Wouldn’t it be amazing if one day when we’re gray and wrinkled something like this existed for us to participate in?” Anne asks.
“It’s a reflexive concept,” Bharat replies. “You put into your community what you want out of your community.”
DID YOU KNOW?
• The license plate on Bharat Chandra’s SUV reads KAETA.
• KAETA’s board of directors includes two Sarasota Orchestra musicians –– principal tuba player Jay Hunsberger and principal flute player Betsy Hudson Traba.
• Bharat is the son of the late G.S. Sharat Chandra, a two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee from India.
• The Chandras spend their summers in Santa Cruz, Calif., performing with the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, for which Bharat serves as principal clarinetist and Anne Chandra serves as assistant principal second violin.
• The couple’s dog, Buckley, is named after Jeff Buckley, their favorite singer/songwriter.
Contact Heidi Kurpiela at [email protected]