Wednesday, 25 August 2010

WAMers on tour...

It was cool, calm, clean and less crowded. We were definitely out of Mumbai. Yes, as luck would have it our trip to Pune finally came to light, even if it was on Friday the 13th! As much as those two days in Pune, or ‘Poona’ as it once was, seemed like a mini vacation, they ended up being just as action-packed as a regular day in Mumbai... but with less noise. After a four-hour train journey of beautiful and varied landscapes providing the backdrop for what seemed like an on-board market place (there were selling EVERYTHING possible on the train), we finally arrived around midday. One of the senior students from the St Cecilia’s School of Music picked us up and, with her friends, drove us to our hotel, The Royal Connaught Boat Club, before taking us for lunch at a swanky restaurant. Indian hospitality is simply unrivalled!!

We then enjoyed the rest of the afternoon/evening at the music school where we met the wonderful Veera Pooniwala, head of the music school. Everyone was inviting and friendly and the music school was set in a beautiful little building, looked after by the adjacent convent. They have two grand pianos, an upright and a digital. We then had a master class which ran from 3pm till 9pm, where students of varying abilities (grade 2 up to ATCL and even one FTCL student) played for us, after which Aaron and I worked with them, giving them advice and guidance, focusing mainly on interpretation, character, and colour. Tension and stiff wrists were a common problem that I addressed in various ways for some students, but generally the playing was of a very good standard and there was an obvious buzz about the school. It definitely had the enjoyment factor, which, since our trip began, we have been trying to develop in the schools we’ve worked at in Mumbai. In addition to piano the school offers singing, as well as classes in theory, aural and music appreciation. Although the session ran on for six hours and we were feeling the effects of a very long day, we enjoyed every moment with the students and wished to have stayed longer!

The following day we were shown round by Hemant Godbole, a piano teacher who runs classes in another part of the city. We got to see the huge university campus in its tropical setting, the old city and the Raja Dinkar Kelkar museum. It was also this day that we discovered Mosambi (sweet lime juice), also available as a combo with many other juices. D-E-licious! Then a shorter afternoon at Hemant’s studio, where we heard some of his students play. They were around grade 4-5 standard and played their exam pieces for us. Addressing similar issues as before, we hosted a small masterclass with them. Though coming from a less privileged area than those we’d seen the day before, the students were equally keen and responsive, even if their exposure to Western classical music was more limited. After another fun day our short time in Pune was up. And that was ten days ago. How time is flying here...

On the Mumbai front things have been very busy. We’ve now introduced recorders into the school and I have started off classes for the 4 standard children (ages 9-10) in small groups during activity times in the morning and a longer session on Saturday mornings (they don’t seem to mind coming along again!). I wrote a starter book for them, introducing five notes and basics of music theory through varied tunes and exercises which I get them to clap and sing along to first. The children are enjoying the lessons and the opportunity (for most of them) to learn an instrument for the first time. We are happy to introduce these extra-curricular activities, which can altogether enrich their music education and promote a more active music-making environment in the school. It is very encouraging that Blaise, the music teacher in the International School, is happy to volunteer his free time by helping me to teach the recorder, dividing the children between us.

Finally, and most excitingly, I will be coming back to the Garodia School in September to teach for a further year, as part of which my main job will be to continue the work Aaron and I have started in the classrooms by fully establishing a music curriculum for the International School (at least standards 1-5). In addition to this project, I will also continue to work in the Music School, again helping to develop its infrastructure as well as offering more free classes beyond the students’ weekly lessons (aural, theory, ensemble classes etc). The International School is preparing for two large shows on October 1st, so once this is completed I can start up an International School choir, extend recorders to earlier year groups and introduce recorder ensembles at the very least... This is a very exciting opportunity and, while there have been some lasting improvements since Aaron and I have been here, this will ensure continuity from our efforts over the last two months.

So good news and exciting times here; however there is still a week to go and so much to get done, including more British Council workshops and a final concert for all the students we’ve been working with across the schools. Back to work for me...



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