Monday, March 19, 2012

The Harvard of Indian Music: A Vision

Its a fast-paced world we live in today. From cell phones being used to perform multi-functions of a camera, a music player, a wi-fi generator etc with phone calls being the last used function now to tools like Skype or social networking sites like Facebook that bring opposite ends of the world closer, technology has fast gone viral. Gone are the days when images used to be transferred through floppy disks or data written to bulky 500 MB hard drives, though its hard to believe folks now in their 30s saw the entire transition - that’s how rapidly it progressed. With all this in mind, it would be a shame if we could not leverage this for the betterment of education. And one such form of education is the literary arts and crafts, I talk about Indian classical music to be precise.

Times Of India published an article on the Shankar Mahadevan Academy (hereby referred to as the Academy) a year back, Feb 11, 2011 to be precise, when the Academy was established. The original article can be accessed here.



On the first anniversary of the Academy, here’s a student testimonial honoring it and everyone associated with it - straight from the horse’s mouth. I have first-hand experience of the Academy as I am a student of Hindustani 101 and I must say, its a very gratifying experience. I used to learn Carnatic music in India before, from revered music teachers at their homes or in the school.This was much before music was considered as a form of grade-able education and hence I do not have any certificates or honors to support my claim of having learn Carnatic music for 6 years. Of course, its been a while and I have lost touch as well. Hence, after spending 7 years in the USA and innumerable futile attempts to get associated with a well-established India based institute to now learn some basics of Hindustani Sangeet (as compared to some individual housewives who boast of years of teaching experience but do not come with recommendations and charge hefty fees per session!) I stumbled upon the Academy when I received an email from the iGate-Patni administration, the company where I used to work. Our company had tied-up with the Academy to further its cause and have more people take advantage of this opportunity and I jumped at this one chance I got.

10 weeks later and well on my way to completing 101, I must say, I am impressed. Its a well-thought of concept, with a very structured curriculum, a neatly laid out course with the ever-supportive Om-Book (Online Music Book that also has videos, wiki articles embedded as you go). Classes are held weekly over interactive - audio and video - Webex sessions with a maximum of 3 students per class. Assignments are doled out every class and students need to record the songs and upload them to get them graded. The teacher grades the assignment and also provides constructive feedback - sometimes by means of recordings, yet others via typed up notes. There’s also the option of recording non-assignment singing and requesting the teacher for the feedback - so the student does not have to feel restricted to just the assignment. The only meagre requirements that the class asks for are a headset, a laptop/desktop with a camera/webcam, an electronic tanpura (The Om-Book does have an inbuilt Tanpura as well though its recommended that dedicated students have a stand-alone one) coupled with enough dedication and interest.

I talk about class timings with respect to the US timezones. Classes are held mostly in the evenings, once a week, you get an option to pick the time that works best for you. The most surprising thing for me in the recent past was that my time did not change even after the Daylight Savings Change. The teachers in India adjust their times accordingly. It caused them to arrive an hour earlier (5:10 AM IST) in this case, but that’s the policy of the Academy and in business terms, I believe that’s pretty good customer service.

I have also perused through some of the classes for the tiny tots and I marvel at the style of teaching that is employed for the kids. When I was young, I needed to be pushed to attend classes related to Arts, that was not an age where everyone could appreciate the classical base of music. But ask me to hum a Bollywood song and I would do it with ease. This very notion has rightly been captured by the Academy and molded in a way that the kids are automatically interested in learning classical music. The idea that every song, piece, rythm, sound is ultimately made up of 7 swaras - the basic 7 notes of music, and hence, so are Bollywood songs finally appeals to their young impressionable minds. Here’s an example:




In addition to the in-demand Hindustani and Carnatic classes, the Academy also has courses dedicated to Devotional songs and Bollywood as well. Some of these are instructor led, yet others are self-study online. Neatly laid out into different levels Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced - which are further divided into sub-levels of 101, 102, 103, 104 these courses are a beautiful answer to those like me who have been wanting to get in touch with their inner self again. Singing Sa-Pa-Sa (the base of music, that a singer uses to fine-tune his/her pitch and what one sings at the start and end of each class) again after 13 years brought tears to my eyes and I knew I was in the right place. Depending on one’s previous knowledge, the student could also be put into a higher level directly. The Academy has long since established itself in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji in addition to its pioneer setup in India and the US. And for those who dream of singing with the stars, the Academy also has regular road shows with the Guru himself as well as recording contests, auditions etc for the students giving them a chance to meet Shankar Mahadevan in the flesh and record with him! Granted that many would have envisioned this, but kudos to the team for making this real. Mind you, I am not affiliated with the Sales and Marketing group at the Academy, I just think its a beautiful venture and a treat for all Indian music lovers across the world to meet and interact with other such singers, to learn from established teachers associated with a well-known music maestro. An impressive use of the technology advance! So if you want to learn Indian classical music but have been holding off for a while, how about giving it a try? If you’re inclined to music, you’ll not regret it. For more on the Academy, check out http://www.shankarmahadevanacademy.com/ or their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Shankar.Mahadevan.Academy.
I would love to hear your views!

6 comments:

  1. ah the marvels of technology!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And it continues to fascinate us by the day!

      Delete
  2. good work..! :) All the best.. keep going.. :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Music-something which I can't understand to the root. As a result of which, my mood throughout the post wasn't with enthusiasm, but nicely written!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In that case, thank you!!! much appreciated!

      Delete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...