Every year, over 8000 people attend the Cleveland Festival popularly known as the “Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana”. The schedule of the ten-day festival includes the who’s who of Indian classical music and dance, and brings together a tremendous outpouring of support from Indian cultural connoisseurs from all over the U.S.
This year’s Festival is dedicated to the memory of Maestros Tanjore Balasaraswati (celebrated Indian dancer), Madras Lalitangi Vasanthakumari (fondly known as MLV; legendary Carnatic musician and playback singer), and Sandhyavandanam Srinivasa Rao (Musicologist, Carnatic musician and teacher).
This year also marks the 41st year of the festival.
The Aradhana tries to keep things fresh by slightly varying each year’s performance and this means, the lead artists and groups are constantly changing. So, we cannot reuse any of the information, or groups when we process a new batch of artists. Our firm has been associated with shepherding the artists though the US Visa process for almost half the life of the festival! During this association, we have successfully petitioned for and obtained approvals for close to twelve to fifteen hundred artists. Most of the artists travel exclusively for the festival that is held in Cleveland, but sometimes travel to similar, but smaller festivals in various cities around the United States.
Coordinating the paperwork for this extremely large contingent of artists is a remarkable team effort and labor of love. The entire Firm pitches in to research the artists, review paperwork, prepare forms and petitions, obtain peer review evaluations and finally filing the petitions on time with the USCIS. The artists enter the U.S. using the P-3 Visa program. In recent years, the USCIS has scrutinized this Visa category very closely and raises requests for additional evidence routinely. However, given our meticulous preparation and review, the Cleveland Aradhana has been very successful in obtaining approvals.
Having been part of the festival for all these years, the team of lawyers and paralegals who work on these petitions fondly refer to them as the “classis”; some even identify artists who return year after year by stage names and can tell apart a “mridangam” from a “kanjira” artist (both sometimes referred to simply as percussionist in the initial paperwork). While we are proud of this association with the Cleveland Festival, we are humbled by the enormous responsibility that it imposes on us year after year.
We wish the Cleveland Aradhana the very best this year and look forward to successfully processing the entire contingent or artists and performers for 2019!