Sunday, 22 September 2013

Josh in Mumbai - 6 - Final Blog

Wow. What a hectic week it’s been.  I’m now back in the UK, wearing two jumpers, hugging my AGA, and looking outside as the rain and winds batter the trees.  But what a pleasure it is, to be able to drink straight out the tap without the concern of where the nearest Imodium packet is.  Probably my biggest achievement was to go to India for over 2 months, immerse myself with their culture, and yet not fall ill once.

The last week has been great.  I’m already missing the foundation and the friends I’ve made over the last 70 days.  There are too many highlights to list.  September 6th was National Teachers Day, and I was flattered to receive so many presents from students (all directed to ‘Josh Sir’) – it really made me feel appreciated!

Sadly the 2nd listeners club concert never went ahead either, for exactly the same reason as the first concert getting cancelled.  They were profusely apologetic, and mentioned there and then that “they look forward to hearing me perform next time I come to their Foundation”.

Midori Goto arriving at MMMF on Monday (9th Sept) was a great experience.  I accompanied the String ensemble, then half a dozen students, then had a private masterclass with her and Mika- playing the 6 Romanian Folk dances by Bartok for Violin and Piano.  It was such an enjoyment it really encouraged the idea of doing a postgraduate in Piano Accompaniment at the Royal Welsh.

It’s been a huge experience for me and I’d like to think that while I have learnt a few additional teaching techniques, most of all I feel my current teaching ideas have been assured and validated.

Being invited back to the foundation has been a real honour – I started in July thinking that if I was invited back, I’ll have done a good enough job.  When I can travel back is another question entirely.  If I had a choice I’d like to see India in non-monsoon season.  During September, the rains stopped and you could start to see Mumbai in a new light- something I’d perhaps like to see more of…

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Farewell Chennai!

I could not believe that I’m finally back to Leeds, sleeping on my own bed and having home cooked food once again. It has been really fascinating not just for the students and the teachers but for me to see India on my own! Two months have literally flied passed but all the things that I have been through will stay!

During one time, I went to the marine beach in Chennai and there were like four small kids pulling my short and shirt and begging hard for money. The shirt pulling has never happened to me before, not in Bombay, and not in Chennai so far. I was feeling really hopeless as I’m not sure whether to push them away, or surrender some changes or just run. Even though they are just asking for some changes, but the meanings behind this are huge as the children are being used as money makers. Their parents do not love their children and they give birth to as many children as possible in order to maximise income. It is very upsetting seeing that they are born to become beggars in the street and the poverty cycle continues. The issue of poverty has becoming a very important subject matter to the whole of India. In order to reduce poverty, long term investment on primary/secondary education is important but in short term, economic growth will enable to lift millions out of poverty immediately, as seen from the Gujarat state.

Rather than going onto too much detail on fundamental economic issues on here, however, for once, I have been questioning about economic growth in the society. Surely, Indians are getting richer which must be a good thing, but being rich can have a damaging effect to the Indian culture. Some people are solely aiming for the process of making money and the ancient traditional values such as hospitality and being kind to each others are fading away gradually. Even man’s traditional outfit in South India such as the lungi are being replaced by western clothing like short. Hearing about arranged marriage and different religions from Tamilians has been an eye opener for me as the younger generations are more open minded about the Western concepts on dating and marriage, especially when they come from different religious families. I have never really thought about these issues before, but I start to appreciate and respect their distinct viewpoint. And through this way, I’m able to connect with them closer and understand more about the values that they hold within the society.

During these past two months, it has given me a lot to think about and it feels that I have just scratched the surface of India. I am leaving India with more questions than answers. It has been an incredible journey and really satisfying. I have made friends that I will be keeping in touch for life, and I have gained new skills that can be applied to anything that I’ll do in future. Thank you to WAM foundation, Musee Musical and the people that I have met, it has been an unforgettable experience.


Goodbye Areeparambu!

Hi everyone,

Apologies for not being update for the past 4 weeks; we had no access to wifi so have been saving our news for now!

Unfortunately the tv broadcast we mentioned in our last blog didn't happen, which was a shame, but we've had lots of other things to fill our time with.

Over the past 9 weeks we got to know our students really well and it was really sad saying goodbye. We covered huge amounts of material in class, starting from the very beginning for most of them, and it was so rewarding knowing that so much of their theoretical musical knowledge came from us. We even got onto Bach Chorales with the 2nd years, and I began to introduce them to ideas about musical aesthetics. We wrote some exams for them along the way and saw a huge improvement. At the end of our time there we put on a concert and asked each student to perform a piece of their choice. They were really excited as they don't often get a chance to perform and two of them, Steve and Priyanka, performed two pieces that they had written themselves. A lot of them are really enthused by songwriting and Rebecca has given regular songwriting workshops to help improve the technical side of their composition. We even heard a rap performance from the new student who came one week before we left, James. He's been a really quick and keen learner, and went from no theoretical knowledge to a secure understanding of how to read music in a week. We said goodbye to our students when they took us out for lunch on the last day which was a really nice surprise, and we really enjoyed getting to know them outside the classroom.

Outside of ACCM, we've been doing more and more work with PCH (precious children's home), and have taught the children lots and lots of english children's hymns. We've organised lots of programmes for them including an elaborate treasure hunt through the grounds and games afternoons (we discovered musical chairs and limbo were a hit!). We had to say a really emotional goodbye to 143 children on Thursday.

All in all we've really enjoyed our time in Areeparambu.


Rosie and Rebecca

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Josh in Mumbai - 5

With all the other WAMers having left on a homebound flight, I sit here in a practice room coming to terms that the current ‘tourist’ population of Mumbai has probably just dropped about 40%.

I am fully accustomed to the usual questions I get asked when I walk down the street, get a taxi, or practically encounter anyone in this cement jungle…  “Where are you from?!”…  “Married?!”…   Or just general queries as to why I’m here. (Admittedly alarm bells did start ringing when the first question one taxi driver asked me was “What religion are you?”).  However these questions usually result in a happy exchange of information and then asking for money. Lovely.

Work at the MMMF is going well.  As I presume is the case with other WAMers, I’ve been well and truly in the routine now, and have admittedly forgotten about this website for a couple of weeks.  Work-wise not much has changed, Mika – the Japanese violin teacher and I are trying to encourage chamber music playing.  We’ve divided the more able pianists into several groups and I am teaching them different movements of the Seitz Student Violin Concerto No.5, along with other violin and piano works.  I’m now also taking more students than normal because one of the main piano teachers has gone on holiday to London.  All the piano lessons are going well, I’ve also started aural training lessons for the piano and violin students that will be having ABRSM/Trinity exams in November.

The String Ensemble will be ready for their performance on the 11th September, and, provided the students work hard, the choir will also be ready.  The String Ensemble are so ready in fact, that they will be able to perform the Kinder-Sinfonie by Edmind Angerer by memory (!) The Choir are learning Suscepit Israel by J.S.Bach, John Rutter’s ‘For the Beauty of the Earth’ and an A Capella version of the Nutcracker March by Tchaikovsky.

Sadly my first Listeners’ Club Concert was canceled on account of internet/email difficulties which in turn meant problems inviting people.. But that’s another story.. I had been spending a fair amount of time practicing for it so it was a mild disappointment to find it canceled just the day before.  I am supposed to be doing my second concert, with Mika, on Wednesday (4th September), though I foresee the same problem of the administration inviting people. I’ll keep you posted, if you pardon the pun.

I am however busy enough learning new music; A professional Indian tenor (who studied both an undergraduate and postgraduate at the Guildhall School of Music) has asked me to accompany him for a private audition with Zubin Mehta.  The program will include two Mozart Arias – “Così Fan Tutte - Un’ aura amorosa” and “Don Giovanni - Il mio Tesoro intanto”, along with Gaetano Donizetti’ “L’elisir D’amore Una Furtiva lagrima”.  I’ll also be the accompanist for everyone at the Foundation when Midori Goto will provide a string masterclass on the 9th September.  I’ve already listed a lot composers and titles of works so I won’t bore the minority of people who have probably made it this far into my 5th blog.

My trip to Goa was interesting – when people told me it wasn’t the season to go, I didn’t expect it to be empty.  On the second day I walked up Morjim beach by myself, and I only saw a couple of fishermen in the 90 minutes I walked north.  There were actual ghost towns, where people had retreated, leaving their businesses and huts neatly gift-wrapped in blue tarpaulins.  Nevertheless it was nice to get away from the pollution and chaos of Mumbai just for a couple of nights.  The Konkan Kanya Express* train was a great experience and something I really do hope to relive sometime in the future.

*’Express’ definition in India: A 13 hour overnight train journey, travelling over 700kilometres from Madgoan to Mumbai.

Enjoying The Fresh Air
Konkan Kayna Express

Thursday, 29 August 2013

More Gurgaon shenanigans - Áine

Hello all.
Apologies for the lateness of this update, but it has been a very busy few weeks in Gurgaon – with the passing of Independence Day, Raksha Bandan and Lord Krishna’s birthday as well as working seven day weeks, with additional classes with the NGO school, it’s been fairly manic going!

One the 9th and 14th of August, One World College of Music had two showcases in a local market, where a selection of auditioned pupils were able to perform on a large stage to the shoppers. The concert on the 9th passed by without a glitch, and the pupils performed wonderfully. However, an hour before the concert on the 14th was due to start, the monsoons decided to make an appearance. For an hour and a half I was stuck under an ever-flimsier looking piece of plastic sheeting with some of the older students with whom I was about to do a soundcheck, looking out at the brave souls of the sound system company who were wading through shin-deep water to try and save the electrical equipment. However, there wasn’t a single sense of humour failure – indeed it was at this point that I remembered that the only umbrella I possessed was one emblazoned with a Union Flag jubilee effort, and in a fit of post-colonial guilt (it being an Independence Day concert) I decided that, discretion being the better part of valour, I probably should get just wet. Everyone found this absolutely hilarious, but draped it in Indian flag bunting for good measure before weathering out the storm underneath it. The concert then went on wonderfully, with the first performance of a new composition, ‘Utho Jawan’, by a student I had been mentoring being received very well, and, after much persuasion, my somewhat bizarre tuba adaptation of the original Sanskrit ‘Vande Mataram’.

Independence Day itself was a very interesting occasion. Having had to stay over the night at a teachers’ house the night before, after coming back late from the concert, I found myself walking across Gurgaon early in the morning hearing patriotic music playing at every street corner. One World College of Music was to have a morning concert at the market, to celebrate the hoisting of the flag by some local dignitaries. I had managed to also bring along the children from Sankalp, the NGO school, to perform the songs we had been learning along the newly formed drum ensemble at OWCM. The children, having never performed before, were somewhat nervous, but did a great job and impressed some important people. Teaching a class of children whose Hindi, never mind English, was at times variable presented its challenges. Sadly I had my last class today with them, but they can now all read natural notes in the treble clef, know how to clap a variety of rhythms and can sing a number of Hindi, Sanskrit and English songs both in solfege (both Hindi and English) and with words. I couldn’t be more pleased or impressed with their good humour and drive to learn, and will miss them a great deal.

Progress at One World has also been pleasing; there are now regular theory classes, with attendance slowly but surely improving. I have also been leading theory classes with the teachers – a lot of them are self-taught or have received very little theory training and there were a few issues with the ways theory was being taught. Now, with the help of a variety of resources, we have covered the basics and I have put together a step-by-step teaching syllabus for theory classes. I have also arranged for one teacher, who has the most advanced theory knowledge, to lead theory sessions with new teachers after I have left. Weekly staff meetings will continue in order to improve the sharing of ideas and openness within the school, and hope
fully OWCM’s link with Sankalp will be able to continue, as some of the teachers will hopefully be taking over my sessions once I leave. We have also finally started an OWCM choir for all of the vocal students, and are looking at forming links with a jazz institute in Kathmandu, as well as hosting performers for workshop sessions and starting a scholarship programme. Never a quiet moment!

It has been a very full few months here, but it is so rewarding to see the progress of the school and to have forged some really strong friendships. To kick off the send-offs, on Tuesday all of the staff at One World, an unnecessarily large amount of harmonicas, a mandolin, and more beer than can be found in an Irish working men’s club, bounced down the road to Agra for the day to see the Taj Mahal. It was amazing, hilarious, musical, but also slightly poignant as I know I will soon have to say goodbye to a group of people who have been so eager to receive help, improve the school, do their best to convey their passion for music to the students and who have been more hospitable than I could ever have wished for.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Baby, bells and beanstalks - Becky in Bombay.

Finally, a month later than planned, my grade one classes are having their musical presentations filmed today and I am so excited! They have worked so hard writing lyrics, making up actions, learning songs, using percussion instruments, drawing pictures for the backdrop - I am so proud! Hopefully they will smile and sing well! It will also be the last time I ever have to sing these songs about Jack and the Beanstalk which have been on repeat for nearly two months!

On Saturday Cat, Duncan, Sam and I braved local buses (possibly more chaotic than the local trains!) and ran a music workshop in a government-run orphanage. It was the most incredible morning! To begin with, Duncan and I played some folk tunes while the children walked in which immediately got their attention and smiles. Then they sang us some songs they had been preparing, we sang them some songs and taught them a few more. Their singing was so lovely and loud and they seemed to enjoy it as much as we did! Then they started giving requests which we obliged, despite a few qualms about their choices: 'Baby' by Justin Bieber and 'Jingle Bells'! Still, it was certainly the greatest rendition of both of these songs ever to be heard by human ears.

Today we are also starting to create a musical drop-in session at lunch where we will sit and play music and teach songs to anyone who happens to show up. Hopefully it will have good results!

I cannot believe it is the last week of school. I feel so incredibly privileged to be here.

Cat and I keep having going into a class and realizing it is the last time we will have a class with this particular group of children. Here is a photo of us with a Kindergarten class who will be very much missed.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Last Week In Chennai

I have always thought that two months in India is going to be slow as the lifestyle is very different than what I was used to in UK. With just exactly one week left, as much as I miss my family and friends in UK, I think I’m starting to get fond of living in Chennai. From working side by side with the teachers, eating South Indian food and doing all piano related teaching and writing, I am really enjoying the whole experiences and it has been amazing!

As always, my weeks have been the same, as I go to the school at the same time and everything is expected. However, even though I have a few days left in the school, I am still having the chance to get to know new students and hearing different pieces played by them. It makes every day very interesting as there is never one day that feels the same. And there are always different piano related matters that I can explain to the same student!

With the school’s report almost ready to send out, I felt like I have achieved something and I’m making a difference. Although I have been struggling to offer useful advices and guidance to a student who wish to take up music as a degree in aboard. But given my background, I have been able to relate closer to students that wish to do engineering, mathematics, economics and commerce. Sometimes, not only giving just lessons on piano, I have found myself in the situation on offering advices to students that are unsure of what they want to do in future. It has been encouraging to tell them how piano can go well with whatever careers they choose to do and how it have helped me to relieve from stress over the past! Most importantly, I enjoy playing the piano, and I want to teach the students on how to enjoy playing it too and it has been a major point that I’m trying to address in the school!

Same as other WAMers, I’ve been sending out feedback forms to students and teachers over the past few days. It was really rewarding hearing what the students have gained from me and how I have motivated them to learn further One of my students gave me an Asoka pillar of lion capital as a present and it was interesting hearing stories related to that. Then, I realised it was the national emblem of India and it can be found on every bank notes!

Apart from teaching, I’m trying to make the most out of the very limited time that I have left in here. I’m going to watch Chennai Express tomorrow since I’m in Chennai and the film was strongly recommended! I’m planning to visit Anna Centenary Library once more as they have a huge collection of books and it’s one of the biggest in India. Besides from that, I’m yet to visit the Egmore museum and also meeting up with friends! This last week is going to be interesting!