Lalith Rao’s introduction to Hindustani classical music was at the age of three, at a concert by renowned vocalist Faiyaz Khan. She started learning music from Rama Rao Naik, who initiated her into the Agra gharana style of singing. Her first public concert was at the Bangalore Sangeet Sabha at the age of 12. When she was 14, she won the All India Classical Music competition in Mumbai and became the youngest participant of the Swami Haridas Sangeet Sammelan the same year, and was well received.
Lalith Rao completed her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Electrical Communication Engineering. In 1967, she married Jayavanth Rao who convinced her to abandon her engineering career and pursue singing; she received training from Pt. Dinkar Kaikini and Ustad Khadim Hussain Khan.
Lalith Rao went back to the Sur Singar Sansad to restart her performance career and there, became a professional singer. She is as adept at singing Khayal, Dhrupad, Dhamaar as well as Thumri, Tarana and Hori. Under the guidance of her guru, she developed a unique style of rendering taranas.
Her first concert abroad was in 1981. She has performed in France, UK, USA and Canada and is a top-grade artiste of All India Radio. Rao regularly performs on the Radio and Television. She was one of the key figures in setting up a trust “Sajan Milap” in the mid-seventies, to popularise the music of her Guru, who used the pen name “Sajan Piya”. She was the chief coordinator for the Ford Foundation Archival project at the ITC Sangeet Research Academy from 1989-91. A few years later she herself sang for the Ethno-Musicology Department of the University of Washington in Seattle for them to archive the music of her gharana.