Skip to Content Skip to Navigation

Tom Prasada-Rao: story

cliff notes
favorite moments
a list of things


Consider the lilies of the field / How they neither sow nor reap
Still God’s beauty is revealed / He watches over them in their sleep
Then will He not do so for you / Oh my little orphan child
When your long dark night is through / You will see the morning smile

Look up, have faith / Your dreams await / You beautiful you

Everybody knows the truth / You were such a reckless fool
You spent your brilliant youth / Chasing your rainbows -
(your shadows too)
But don’t think you lost your way / Cause you’re standing at the door
Tomorrow is today / You are the one you’ve been waiting for

Look up, have faith / Your dreams await / You beautiful you
Before you were born / God already knew you / He knew you

So ask and you’ll receive / Seek and you will find
It’s not easy to believe / That the water had turned to wine

Look up, have faith / Your dreams await / You beautiful you

TPR Breedlove Classical
TPR at Kerrville 2009 - Betty Friedrichsen

a short biography

A virtual world music ensemble rolled into one guy. His voice weaves incantations, and the guitar is a magic wand in the hands of this extraordinary musician.
—The Takoma Park Folk Festival
Visually and musically, Tom is the most compelling presence to emerge in the singer-songwriter genre as I've seen in a long time.
—Jim Bessman, Billboard

Tom Prasada-Rao is a musician's musician - an unassuming presence on the folk scene since the early nineties. His voice belies his musicianship and his extraordinary songs. From Rishi’s Garden with it’s homage to Ravi Shankar to the groove of Sleeping Beauty , Tom’s music is melodic, ambitious, and reverent. He's starting to tour again after being featured last year on the nationally syndicated TV show Troubadour Texas.

In the fall of 2007 Tom quit the road to produce records, raise two stepdaughters, and walk a rather large Golden Doodle named Thurman twice a day. In addition to producing, he took a job teaching music at White Rock Montessori in Dallas - TPR was formerly the songwriting teacher at The University of Virginia’s Young Writer’s Workshops - where he created the songwriting curriculum and taught for eight years.

From headlining major festivals 15 years ago, to the relative obscurity of a recording studio - Tom continued to mature as an artist. That work blossomed into an impressive resume of producing credits as well as cuts (his songs covered by other artists). This year (2014) marks Tom’s departure from his adopted life and his return to the road. His new release "ADAGIO" - features bass guitar legend Chuck Rainey, and piano virtuoso Julie Bonk who was Norah Jones teacher - all masterfully produced by Jagoda.
Tom Prasada-Rao was born in Ethiopia of Indian parents and raised in Washington DC. He is no longer married the fabulous singer-songwriter Cary Cooper
but wishes her well. He's a vagabond again - currently house sitting in Austin, soon to return to the east coast.

The most moving, pointed and memorable songs reflect Prasada-Rao's indebtedness to Bruce Cockburn, Bob Dylan, and Richard Thompson, and other singer songwriters who have something to say, and a distinctive way of saying it.
—Mike Joyce, The Washington Post

Prasada-Rao gives his folk songs an R&B flavor. George Benson, Grover Washington Jr, Marvin Gaye and a number of other Motown greats come to mind when listening to Hear You Laughing.
—Charlene J. Arsenault, The Boston Globe

Tom Prasada-Rao is a rare and brilliant performer. His fine voice and thrilling guitar work hold you spellbound while he heals your heart.
—David Wilcox, Singer-Songwriter

Tom Prasada-Rao is as far from boring folk music as you can get and still be holding an acoustic guitar.
The Free Times, (Columbia, SC)

back to top

Occupation: Producer, Teacher, Singer-songwriter

Born: in Ethiopia of Indian parents

Educated: in Maryland, England, and India

Albums: 5 Solo CDs, 2 Group CDs, over 25,000 copies sold

Produced: Johnsmith, Cary Cooper, Rachel Bissex

Teaching: University of Virginia's Young Writer’s Workshops, White Rock Montessori,Lambs’ Retreat, Summer Songs

Awards: Kerrville New Folk Winner, Falcon Ridge Most Wanted, WAMA Songwriter of the Year, Kerrville Indie Album of the Year

Home: Anywhere/Everywhere (formerly Takoma Park, MD)

Sign: Aries

Religion: Rumi
back to top


Kerrville Folk Festival New Folk Winner ‘93
Falcon Ridge Top 3 Most Wanted ‘98
WAMMIES - Washington Area Music Awards:
WAMA Best Male Vocalist '93 - '03 (10 years in a row)
WAMA Songwriter of the Year ‘97
WAMA Song of the Year ’97
Indie Album of the Year - The Kerrville Music Awards ‘98
Mid Atlantic Song Contest - 1st place Jazz and Folk ’95

Johnsmith's Gravity of Grace #1, Cary Cooper's Yellow #4, and The Dreamsicles Luv Songs for Grown-Ups #5 on the Folk DJ chart. Remembering Rachel raised $50,000 for the Bissex college fund!

In Progress Emily Dunbar, Robin Hackett, Christopher Smith, Bill Nash, Chris and Steve Sealy, Kathy Moser, TR Ritchie, Nancy Jephcote, Cindy Novelo

Completed Johnsmith, Cary Cooper, Neal Katz, Kate Graves, Cheryl Branz, Bliss Wood, Barbara Garriel , Erik Balkey, Michael Bowers and Siobhan Quinn , Lauren Lapointe , Rachel Bissex Tribute Album Annie Wenz , The Dreamsicles, Rachel Bissex , Kristin DeWitt , Michael Bowers , The Sherpas, Carey Creed

Rocky Mountain Folks Festival Song School, Kerrville Folk Festival Song School, University of Virginia Young Writers Workshops, Summer Songs East, Summer Songs West, Lamb’s Retreat, Guitar Clinics for Breedlove Guitars, White Rock Montessori, Dallas TX, Boys and Girls Club Music Camp, Kerrville TX

Janis Ian, Peter Yarrow, Michael Hedges, Ani Difranco, Odetta, David Wilcox, Ritchie Havens

Ed King of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Mark Heard, Eva Cassidy, Chris Biondo

Festivals: Ottowa, Rocky Mountain, Philadelphia, Kerrville, SXSW, Falcon Ridge, Wildflower, Woody Guthrie, South Florida, Boston, New Song

Performance Halls: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, The Kennedy Center

Clubs: The Birchmere, The Bottom Line, The Iron Horse, The Ram’s Head, The Freight and Salvage, The Main Street Cafe, Six Strings (Raleigh, NC)

Coffeehouses: Uncle Calvin’s, Cafe Lena, Swallow Hill, JamminJava, Godfrey Daniels

Concert Series: The Listening Room, The Evening Star, Six Strings (Columbus, OH)

House Concerts: Fox Run, The Panzers, Rouse House, Flowers in the Desert

back to top

At the Threadgill Theater with Annie Wenz, Pat Wichtor, Freebo, and Karen Mal - Neale Eckstein with Pat Wichtor, Annie Wenz, Freebo & Karen Mal - Neale Eckstein

WHILE TEACHING Song School at the Rocky Mountain Folks Fest I was asked to do a seminar with Janis Ian. I said to Merlin David (my manager at the time): No way man, it's Janis Ian, are you freakin kidding me! But he finally convinced me and reluctantly I climbed up the steps to the stage. First off Janis talked for a while about her career, and then she sang Seventeen. SEVENTEEN! As soon as she got done, she said over the mic quite matter of factly: Tom, why don't you play one?

THE FIRST TIME I played in Chattanooga, I didn't know a soul and it was cold, dark, and raining. I did my sound check, then several hours later took the stage, surveying the audience during my first set. I saw a woman with a beatific smile, one that I should have I recognized. During the break she came up to me and pinned a silver angel on my kurta (those long Indian shirts). She didn't say a word. Too embarassed to ask, I found out later she was Odetta.

I HAD THE GREAT HONOR to have one of my idols produce my first album -- the late and legendary Mark Heard. I couldn't have had a better mentor or a more sarcastic teacher. He told me stuff I really didn't want to hear, like after finishing all the mixes for Incoming I said Whew! We're all done and he said Yeah, now the hard part begins. It was Mark who taught me how important it was to try to sing like I meant it -- one time stopping the two inch tape in the middle of Driftwood saying: Dammit Tom, don't make me put strings on this song!

FOR SEVERAL YEARS on Christmas Eve I would go to the CCNV 2nd and D shelter to play Christmas carols. One Christmas Eve I was playing when it felt like most of the residents became distracted. Then bouncing up the stairs came Jesse Jackson and everyone went wild. He sang along for a while, then took center stage with a speech/exhortation that left me in tears. I for one am a believer. There's not another politician I know of that would go to a shelter during the holidays when he wasn't trolling for votes. He has my admiration and gratitude.

I ALWAYS COMPLAINED to my folks that I was born 10 years too late, missing out on all that peace and love of the 60's. One day after recording my first album I got a call from Carol Fenelly asking if I was familiar with the music of Don McLean, and if I would be willing to play Vincent at the memorial service for the activist Mitch Snyder. I was humbled and flattered and I quickly called in to work to take the following day off (I was still doing my old courier job).

When I got to the church I found out that I'd be sharing the podium with Dick Gregory & Philip Berrigan. Oh my god! My parents were officially off the hook. When Dick Gregory got done, everyone jumped to their feet ready to change the world. And as they carried Mitch Snyder's ashes down the middle aisle into the blinding sunlight of North Capitol street, I got the idea for Ashes of Love with which I was fortunate enough to win the Kerrville New Folk Competition several years later.

OURS IS A FAMILY THAT COOKS like chefs and eats really, really well. I remember with great fondness waking up on Saturday mornings to the smell of Dad cooking in the kitchen, and even now my mouth waters at the thought of my Mum's curry. She learned her lessons well from her own mother. One day I was cooking curry at my old house in Takoma Park (MD) when Mum and Dad and Gramma (bless her soul) walked in. Gramma, much to my chagrin, asked for a taste. She put the spoon to her mouth, and said something in TELUGU to Mum, and then she started laughing. Gramma was never one to explain herself, and Mum never would tell me what she said.

My FAMILY MADE A PILGRIMAGE back to India in 2003 to celebrate my Grandfather's 96th birthday. He could outwalk most of his grandchildren -- several times a week walking up to 20 miles in one day. [He passed away in the spring of 2009 at 102 years old] The day after his birthday celebration Gramp said he was going for a walk from his village to the village Gramma was born in 6 or 7 miles away. All of us grandchildren who made the trip decided to tag along.

We walked down the streets of Mandipaka at a very leisurly pace, and Gramp was stopped at almost every turn by people who wanted to shake his hand, and invite him into their homes. To those of us who are his family it felt like Jesus entering Jerusalem or Mandela finally being set free. At the other side of the village facing several miles of incandescent rice paddies and waving coconut palms, Gramp stopped and turned to us saying: I want to tell you something...

I want to tell you how much the world has changed. When I was a child, I wouldn't have been allowed to even walk on these streets. These people are Brahmins -- the highest caste, and I was an untouchable, the lowest. If they had touched me they would have to undertake purification rites, and now you see how they invite me inside and put their hands on my shoulder.

-- As if to say, there are a lot of things wrong with the world ... but sometimes all you can do is outsmile them, outwalk them, or outlive them. We completed the journey to Gramma's village, and soon it came time to go back to Mandipaka. Gramp said: This time we go at my pace. It wasn't long before I was out of breath.

back to top

gramps at threadgill
with Gramps, Cary, & Hannah at our reception, Threadgill Theater, Kerrville

Favorite Song: All the Diamonds by Bruce Cockburn
Favorite Singer: Donny Hathaway singing A Song For You
Favorite Novel: Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner
Favorite Bible: Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh
Favorite Album: What's Goin' On by Marvin Gaye
Favorite Movie: Crash by Paul Haggis
Next Favorite Movie: The Milagro Beanfield War by Robert Redford
Favorite Shoe: Birkenstocks
Favorite Guitar: Breedlove CM
Favorite Clothes: Kurtha
Favorite Computer: Macbook
Favorite Musician: Chris Rosser
Favorite Instrument: Sarod
Favorite Newspaper: The Washington Post
Favorite Fairy Tale: It's a Wonderful Life
Favorite Mountains: The Himalayas in Kashmir
Favorite Comic Strip: Boondocks
Favorite Fruit: Mango
Favorite Tree: Willow - for the song by Joan Armatrading
Favorite Comedian: George Carlin
Favorite Guitar Player: Joni Mitchell
Favorite JM album: Miles of Aisles
Favorite King: Ashoka
Favorite Concept: Ahimsa
Favorite Word: Satyagraha
Favorite SuperHero: Mother Theresa
Favorite AntiHero: Mahatma Gandhi
Favorite Ocean: God
Favorite Dancer: Priya
Favorite Moment: Now

back to top

Luv Songs for Grown Ups The Dreamsicles '05
Honor Among Thieves The Sherpas '03
The Dreamsicles The Dreamsicles '03
Out of the Blue Tom Prasada-Rao ’00
Christmas in the Ashram Tom Prasada-Rao '98
Hear You Laughing Tom Prasada-Rao '97
The Way of the World Tom Prasada-Rao '94
Incoming Tom Prasada-Rao '92 Produced by the late Mark Heard

Gravity of Grace Johnsmith ’09
Dirty Little Secret Cary Cooper ’09
Day Will Come Neal Katz ’09
Songs for Sad People Kate Graves ’09
Christmas Gift Cheryl Branz ’08
Chantdance Bliss Wood ’08
Ample Patience Barb Garriel ’08
My Sacred Heart Erik Balkey '08
Family Album Erik Balkey ’08
Dreamers, Lovers, & Outlaws Michael Bowers & Siobhan Quinn ’07
Deadpan Alley Erik Balkey '07
Butterfly Lauren Lapointe ’07
Yellow Cary Cooper ’06
Remembering Rachel Various Artists ’05
Winds of the World Annie Wenz ’05
In White Light Rachel Bissex ‘04
Here Now Kristin DeWitt ‘04
Reluctant Believer Michael Bowers '04
Gypsy Train Cary Cooper '02
I'll Know You Carey Creed '02
Poet's Dance Annie Wenz '01
Falling Ashes Ranjith '96.
Home and Heart Christmas Various Artists '89
Lord of All The Prasada-Rao Family ‘86

Last One Gone, David Wilcox Into the Mystery
See Myself in You, Randy Travis Inspirational Journey
See Myself in You, Tom Kimmel Shallow Water
The View from Here, Bob Bennett The View from Here
From the Dust, Ronny Cox Cowboy Savant
Whisper of the Wheels, David Wilcox What You Whispered
Gravity of Grace, Johnsmith Gravity of Grace
Dirty Little Secret, Amy Speace The Killer In Me
Dirty Little Secret, Cary Cooper Dirty Little Secret
Everything Is Coming True, Cary Cooper Dirty Little Secret
Have Faith In Me, Cary Cooper Dirty Little Secret
Thinking About It, Cary Cooper Dirty Little Secret
Consider Me, Cary Cooper Dirty Little Secret
If God Is An Apple, Erik Balkey My Sacred Heart
Stand Up!, Freebo Before The Separation
Rishi's Garden, Broto Roy American Raga
Sleeping Beauty, Lauren Kilgore Today Is Mine
The One Who Leaves, Michael Lille Suitable Disguise
Hard to Walk Out on a Deal, Tom Kimmel Light of Day
Can't Get You Out of My System, Tom Kimmel Stories
On to Something, Tom Kimmel Stories
Doin' It for You, Michael Lille Never Home to Stay
Lefty's Boys, SGGL On the Shoulder
Darlene, Penny Nichols Harmony Singing and Background Singing
Mrs Whitney, Don Conoscenti My Brilliant Masterpiece
One Another, Rachel Bissex Between the Broken Lines
Someone's Got to Pay / Injustice, Chris Chandler Collaborations
Falling Star, Kristin DeWitt Here Now
Falling Star, Jay Be Acoustic Passion
Falling Star, Jerry Bresee Lifelines
Incoming, Natalie Withers Blessing Indie Skies

When Angels Sing We Are Each Other's Angels Hungry for Music
When Angels Sing Kerrville Folk Festival 2000 Volume 1
The Way of the World Baltimore Washington Songwriters Guild Even So Baltimore Washington Songwriters Guild
Even So A Holiday Feast III Hungry for Music
Everyday I Love You Even More 20 Years Strong
..... Takoma Park Folk Fest
Till I'm Free Acoustic Access Songwriters Volume 1
Someone's Got To Pay 1995 Kerrville Highlights Silverwolf
Your Imagination (TPR with Amilia Spicer), Making God Smile
..... A tribute to Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, Silent Planet
Falling Star Live from the Acoustic Stage Silent Planet
Joy to the World Elixir Strings Volume 2
Joy to the World The Potter's House Sampler
Joy to the World A Holiday Feast Hungry for Music
Ashes of Love Folks Live! Rocky Mountain Folks Festival
Ashes of Love Follow That Road Rounder
Driftwood The Silverwolf Homeless Project Silverwolf
Hold On Tight Live Oak Strings (w Tom Kimmel & Michael Lille)
Incoming The Performing Songwriter Editor's Choice Volume 1

back to top
tpr guitarTPR and his Breedlove CM - Ed Guthero