World Music Day 2018: Music education in India beginning to make a mark

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Despite being the soul of the country, music has been treated in India more as a vocation than a profession, but that’s changing now as Pritha Banerjee reports how educational institutions are imbibing music into their curriculum

Even before the world realised the importance of music in our lives, Indian sages were chanting hymns and teaching matras to their students. That’s how deeply music is embedded in Indian soil. But despite being in the heart of its heritage, music has been treated more like a hobby here than a professional course. We like our children’s jhatkas and matkas to Bollywood numbers, but recoil in fear when they want to pursue classical music rather than studying for engineering or medical degrees. Music education is at its nascent stage and is yet  to gain the position of a full-fledged career option. However, times are in for a change.

Going mainstream

Pt Bhimsen Joshi, MS Subbulakshmi and Lata Mangeshkar notwithstanding, even today young singers and musicians are often asked by their relatives about their ‘actual’ line of work. “When I started my career in music, my relatives used to ask me about my work. Most of the people didn’t even consider singing as a profession. The uncertainty of the industry makes it difficult for people to take this profession seriously,” says singer Priyangbada Bannerjee.

Music is taught as an optional subject making it non-mandatory for the students to attend the classes. Schools which do teach music, don’t teach its technical aspect, avers singer Neha Bhasin, adding, “Music should be introduced as something that is beautiful rather than a burden for a student. It is not everyone’s cup of tea and ones who are dedicated enough should be taught the application, execution and practical aspect of the subject.”

Centralised music education is the solution, claims, singer and founder of Global Music Institute (GMI), Noida, Aditya Balani. “One of the best ways to do this would be to start at the school level. Music, as a subject, is only limited to extra-curricular activity. This leaves no scope for a child to pursue it seriously in the later years. Introducing music as one of the primary subjects can do a lot of good especially under the CBSE curriculum. There is also a need to introduce degree courses which will cater to various aspects of music education career-wise. These should further be not just theoretical in nature but also provide practical exposure.”

Holistic approach

It is a subject that cannot be taught in a confined classrooms, singer Shyamoli Sanghi, insists, “The students need to explore and understand the various facets of each genre they study. One possible way to do this could be to invite faculty from other institutions around the world with formal qualifications in various genres. At present, very few establishments have this option.”

Apart from creating a proper structure for music education in India, Shyamoli, who is pursuing her undergraduate degree from Stanford University, feels there is a need to cultivate more Western music graduates and musicians in India. “The focus should be on creativity. Western music education should be made accessible and affordable. It should also be integrated with other music courses in both schools and colleges, wherein students are also taught about the history of various genres.”

Revamping the education system is not enough. As music depends a lot on technology these days, music schools should be updated with the latest tools available in the market. The classrooms need to be equipped with music software for the students to learn various aspects of the art. In today’s world full of stress, depression, and many other vices, music is the only way to rejuvenate the brain. Subhro Deb, founder of The Institute of Instrumental Music, Kolkata says, “We teach students who are in pre-primary schools to play an instrument or sing. These systematic music lessons are the only exercise which activates both left and right hemisphere of the brain,” he says.

Are you passionate enough?

Apart from all the shortfalls, it is extremely important to prioritise things at a personal level to manage time. “If a person is passionate about something, it becomes a bit easier to balance things and multitask. For anyone who wishes to make a career in this field, I would only say that it is important to manage time efficiently,” points Shyamoli.

Jay Aditya Rao, a student at GMI, says, “My parents were academically inclined and wanted me to pursue a formal degree but their point of view changed when I showed them the scope of learning music. There are several avenues to pursue though I am still exploring options. There are immense opportunities in TV, films, and the advertisement industry. Even, private albums are making a name.”

The drummer and faculty at GMI, Alexandre Kautz thinks new avenues for musicians are opening up. “Many students do not know about the various opportunities available after undergoing training in music. Very few pursue it as a career and still less seek out a professional course to further it.” With the growth of digital media, music industry went through a dramatic change. Priyangbada observes, “It has not only changed the way we consume content and interact with artistes but also forced an entire industry to change the way it markets to consumers. Artistes in the industry no longer need to appeal to millions of people to succeed and make their mark. Instead, a group of even a few hundred loyal followers can enable them to pursue their dreams.”

Support from home

The parents today are open-minded than ever. Although music is still not a compulsory subject in the school curriculum, there is a change in the way it is perceived. Parents are encouraging their children to further their interest in music and study the subject. Neha admits, “I was clear about what I wanted to become and my mother being a singer herself understood my passion. Both my parents supported my decision.”

Youngsters today are very passionate about their choices. They are not afraid to put in the hard work needed to achieve their goals. It is therefore imperative that the elders encourage them in this journey. “As far as my family is concerned, they have always been supportive of my decisions. They understood my passion for music and singing and therefore, encouraged me to follow my dreams,” shares Shyamoli.

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