T Chowdiah was born in 1895 to Agastye Gowda and Sundaramma, in Tirumakudalu, a village near Mysore. The town stands at the confluence of the rivers Kaveri and Kapila. He learnt music from Gaanavisharada Bidaram Krishnappa, a vocalist and composer, who was an Asthana Vidwan (court musician) of the Mysore Royal Court.
His first public appearance, at the age of 17, was purely by chance as the violinist intended for the concert failed to turn up. Bidaram Krishnappa asked Chowdiah to accompany him on stage and he rose to the occasion and made a mark. From then on, Chowdiah was a regular accompanist to leading vocalists of the day. During a concert in Madras in early 1920, Chowdiah accompanied the leading vocalist of the day, Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar, with his guru amongst the audience. Thereafter, he accompanied maestros like Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar, Musiri Subramaniya Iyer, Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer, GN Balasubramaniam, Alathur Brothers and others. In addition to being a sought-after accompanist, Chowdiah was a soloist as well. He was a popular musician and his concerts attracted large crowds.
He was also a guru, administrator and concert presenter. He established the Ayyanar College of Music, which has trained hundreds of vocalists and instrumentalists over the years. The College functioned out of the premises of Bidaram Krishnappa’s Prasanna Seetha Rama Mandira, the construction of which Chowdiah helped complete. He produced a film, Vani (1943) for which, he directed the music.
Chowdiah was awarded the Sangita Kalanidhi title, considered by many as the most prestigious recognition in Karnatik music, by the Madras Music Academy in 1957. He was awarded the fellowship of the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi in the same year.
Chowdiah passed away in 1967 at age 72. He remains one of the greatest musicians of Karnataka, and indeed one of the great legends of Karnatik classical music.