Neil Herbert Nongkynrih, award-winning pianist, Padma Shri awardee (2015)

Shri Neil Herbert Nongkynrih is an award-winning concert pianist from Meghalaya.He is a Music Director, Composer,Founder and Mentorof Shillong Chamber Choir (SCC). He was awarded Padma Shri in 2015, the fourth highest civilian award of India. Shri Nongkynrih was the sole representative of India as a member of the World Choir Council.

Shri Neil Nongkynrih took to the piano at an early age and has redefined the art by bringing to light its power as an instrument of influence he now has a voice that is heeded.At the age of fifteen, Neil won his first National Piano Competition and this led to further studies in London, at the Guildhall School of Music and Trinity College, following which he had conducted a series of concerts and shows across Europe. He came back home to Shillong, India in 2001 after fourteen years in Europe despite a promising career as a classical pianist and started his journey to form the Shillong Chamber Choir, a much needed succourfor his people. He has been a member of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) since 2017 till date.

His major work includes:

  • Composition of a folk opera ‘Sohlyngngem’ that has been premiered in Switzerland, and three of its songs were premiered in July 2005 in Vienna, along with excerpt performances in India and abroad.
  •  As the founder and mentor of the Shillong Chamber Choir, he guided the ensemble to winning the prestigious reality show ‘India’s Got Talent’ in 2010.
  • Under the banner of the Shillong Chamber Choir, they were chosen to perform for US President Barak Obama and Michelle Obama at the Rashtrapati Bhavan during their maiden state visit to India in 2010.
  • Silver Medal for Folk Music at the 2009 World Choir Championships, South Korea.
  • Representing India, Nongkynrih and the Choir were awarded 3 gold diplomas at the 6th World Choir Games (2010) in China for Musica Sacra, Gospel and Popular Music
  • The choir and Nongkynrih also collaborated with Shankar, Ehsaan & Loy for a performance at the Global Indian Music Awards (GIMA).
  • On Maestro Zubin Mehta’s 80th birthday in 2016, Neil Nongkynrih and the SCC performed Nongkynrih’s original piece “Dha Ga Dhi Na”- a composition for choir, piano and tabla at the NCPA, Mumbai in collaboration with the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra. The performance was also witnessed and warmly appreciated by Andrea Bocelli.
  • Opening performance at the 12th South Asian Games, 2016 in Guwahati.
  • In 2018, the SCC was chosen by the Austrian Government to stage the world premiere of Franz Schubert’s unfinished opera “Shakuntala” in Bombay, Delhi & Kolkata.

Shri Nongkynrih received various prestigious honours and awards in his career including:

  • Winners of India’s Got Talent 2010
  • Forbes Person of The Year 2010
  • Indian Chamber of Commerce - ‘Musician of the Year’ 2010
  • U Tirot Sing Award 2011 The Highest State Award conferred on an individual by the Govt of Meghalaya.
  • Award for Exceptional Talent and Contribution to the Community by Indo- American Community, USA, 2012.
  • Padma Shri Award in April 2015

Shri Nongkynrih has also contributed to notable social causes including:

  • Collaborated with Ustad Zakir Hussain for ‘The Foundation’.
  • Performed at the Gateway of India in remembrance of the 26/11 terror attacks in 2012 and 2013.
  • Concert for the Terry Fox Cancer Foundation;
  • Performed for ‘Saath Hai Hum  Uttarakhand’- a fund raiser for the Uttarakhand flood relief.
  • Conceptualized the ‘One World Retreat’ at Umaid Bhavan Palace, Jodhpur with the Vienna Chamber Orchestra and Mr. Amitabh Bachchan for the Head Injury Foundation’s fund raising in 2015.
  • Masterminded the Global Citizen Festival in Mumbai with the European Concert Orchestra and Mr Amitabh Bachchan for the Mega Fund Raiser which also was headlined by the international band Cold Play in 2016.
  • He also performed with SCC for “I for India,” a virtual fundraiser concert created by filmmakers Karan Johar and Zoya Akhtar to help raise funds for the India COVID Response Fund managed by GiveIndia.
  • In December 2020, Nongkynrih and the SCC performed at a virtual Christmas fundraiser show “Come Home Christmas” in aid of the children with Congenital Heart Defects, organized by the Genesis Foundation

He has collaborated with The London Concertante, the Vienna Chamber Orchestra, Manchester Camerata, and the Czech Symphony Orchestra. He also featured with the acclaimed Fitz William Quartet in his debut performance in Switzerland in 2004, in Warsaw, performed a concert for Puls Television, with the Fitzwilliam in London. He also performed at the renowned Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing as part of an initiative to promote Indo- China relations.

While penning the way for the youth of the Region, Neil and the choir also appeared on a non-music related note, featuring as a study chapter in the English syllabus of the ICSE for 2013. As an author, his children’s book titled ‘The Only Begotten Son’ was published by Tate Publishers, USA and was released in the summer of 2014. His dream now is to form the Shillong Chamber Orchestra for auditioning and guiding young people from less privileged backgrounds in the Northeast and inspire the youth and musicians alike towards inclusiveness among the Northeast and the rest of India.