It strikes you when you least expect it: the all-too-familiar darkness, the mental and metaphorical claustrophobia that can completely stop you in your tracks and make it all seem futile. Throughout my life, I've wrestled with a variety of such demons. I struggled my entire life with issues regarding self worth, depression, confidence, and things even darker and deeper. It was in the last couple years that I was diagnosed with bipolar depression, and I have since suspected that there are traces of other mental afflictions that make their mark on me from time to time. When I was younger, coping took all manners of forms, and very few of them were effective. I was a conscious loner, taking pride and solace in making myself an outcast in the name of self-preservation. My tastes in all things turned darker, and I sought to achieve control in the very act of losing control. I was unpredictable and generally not a fantastic person to be around. When I was able to legally consume alcohol, this was added to the fray, and it exacerbated everything.
Today, my methods of coping are much more controlled, rational, and dare I say it, boring. I have been sober for at least two years now, which has helped stabilize my baseline emotional state and made it such that I am far less volatile and reactive to the twists and turns that life inevitably gives us. I perform daily meditation, I take mood stabilizing medication (this is something that I wrestle with, and may not be a permanent constant in my life, but the striving towards finding a medication that restores chemical balance is one that I recommend everyone to do), and I try to take care of my mental and physical well being in all the obvious, mundane ways. I saw a therapist for a few years and wish to resume doing so, as therapy is an absolutely invaluable way to combat and silence inner demons.
One thing I have learned to be absolute truth is that, as difficult as it may seem, the outside world is sometimes the very best way to fight the demons. This does include nature therapy and time spent outdoors, obviously, but also the impact of fellow humans, those whom I did my very best to avoid in my younger years. Once I learned that there was healing in being vulnerable with others, in sharing your feelings, in trusting others and in allowing them to trust you. While I'm sure it is possible to cope with mental illness in a variety of ways that don't involve others, for me it has proven absolutely essential to be able to trust and confide in my loved ones and draw from their positive strength and energy. I think this is probably the most important thing I would want to pass on to anyone who might be struggling with the same things that I have for many years. I wish I had known sooner that opening up to others and trusting in the healing power of community, even just a community of two or three, can be absolutely transformative. I wish I had been able to trust that my loved ones had my best interest at heart, and that whatever I wanted to tell them, they would have listened and done their utmost to understand. Seeking help from others, professionals and loved ones alike, is absolutely vital for me, and I encourage anyone else who is struggling to attempt the same. The compassion of the world around you just might surprise you. Love and hugs to all. <3
My name is Vikram Shankar. I am an American pianist, multi-instrumentalist, keyboardist, composer, arranger, and producer based in Asheville, NC, working out of my Black Bear Audio studio. I specialize in the rock, progressive, metal, classical, jazz, film scoring, pop, and folk genres.
I studied classical piano for ten years at the Cleveland Institute of Music, and in 2017 received my degree in music composition for film from Oberlin College and Conservatory.
Some of my relevant experience includes:
- Composition for video games for Saber Interactive (most recently World War Z: Aftermath)
- Live keyboards for Miles Davis Band alum Sam Morrison
- Pianist in cinematic duo Silent Skies, featuring Evergrey vocalist Tom Englund on vocals
- Keyboardist of veteran multinational progressive metal band Redemption, with whom I played ProgPower USA as a co-headliner
- Keyboardist and composer for progressive rock/fusion trio Lux Terminus, with whom I released a record in 2018, The Courage to Be, featuring guest appearances from famed Dutch vocalist Anneke van Giersbergen, Delain guitarist Timo Somers, and touring Leprous cello player Raphael Weinroth-Browne
- Recorded keyboards and orchestrations for Haken frontman Ross Jennings' 2021 solo album
- Alum of the Palomar Film Music Workshop (Larry Groupé, Roger Neill) and the NYU/ASCAP Film Scoring Workshop
- Keyboardist in USA cinematic metal band Threads of Fate
- Winner of the National Federation of Music Clubs competition for classical composition
- Finalist in the ASCAP/Morton Gould classical composition competition
- Recorded close to 100 piano arrangements of rock/metal/progressive music on my YouTube