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!

Monday, 19 August 2013

Trek rapping and a glittery show! - Becky in Bombay

On Saturday our school had their annual day which was amazing! A sparkly, glittering performance of a traditional story with amazing music, dancing, drama, scenery, lights and mountains of effort! Before the show the tabla player gave me a small lesson which was fantastic and I did a warm up with the choir to get them turning their enthusiastic shouting into singing! During the performance I played guitar which felt too western to me but all the teachers and children seemed very appreciative. The beautiful choir enjoyed having a go in the green room too!

After that I went to the house of a lovely couple from the church we have been attending who sat me down with amazing Indian food and a guitar! I have been invited back today to sing with some young people that they know, learning local songs and teaching western ones. We will be with working the gentleman of the couple on Saturday to do a music workshop in an orphanage.

On Sunday we risked life and limb on a trek through the monsoon! My highlight was the rickety ladder in a waterfall which we went down to reach some Buddhist caves. It was such fun and accompanied by Cat and I singing songs we know, our friends singing amazing hindi songs and rap lessons! Teaching our Indian friends the 'Fresh Prince' was a hilarious disaster but Eminem seems pretty cross-cultural!

Avalon's Raksha Bandhan celebrations are beautiful today. To fit the theme of love between siblings I have just taught them a song from my childhood - 'God loves you and I love you . . . . we should love others like sisters and brothers and that's the way it should be'.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Maria in rainy Gurgaon. Post 5.

It’s been raining golf-ball sized raindrops over here in Gurgaon. I think the crazy weather brings out the best in people though, as the Indians don’t let this get in the way of working, studying and having fun! I’ve been busier than ever especially at Shri Ram school where I’ve been continuing my genre based classes with Opera and also started music history classes beginning with the Renaissance. Sadly, I’ve finished with my choir who were preparing for ‘Oliver’ because they have exams soon so they will resume with another teacher after I leave. I didn’t realise how attached to these children I had become! Before I arrived they had never had a choir in the school and so weren’t at all trained in singing. After just a month and a half they had learnt 5 songs from the musical very well and with enthusiasm. I am so proud!
Me teaching the choir at Shri Ram
Much of the time my classroom music lessons at Shri Ram are challenging because of discipline issues such as the children talking and not listening in class. It was such a joy then when I went to Shiv Nadar school last week to take a few workshops. This is a primary school in the heart of Gurgaon and the young children were so well behaved! I taught them some action songs such as ‘Oliver Twist’, ‘The Hokey Pokey’ and the round ‘Guten Morgen’. With the older students I taught them about polyrhythm and managed to create an effective class composition using four different rhythms simultaneously. We even incorporated a dramatic crescendo and diminuendo!

Due to the rain, I still have not been able to carry out the vocal teacher workshops and choir that I wanted to set up at IMD. But the positive news is that the singing books that I suggested have arrived. This will be great for the school as previously students were learning mainly pop songs from lyric sheets. My vocal students have already been reaping the benefits of learning from sheet music.

I’ve been making an effort to learn about Indian music whilst I am here, so that the experience is more reciprocal. Aine and I watched a concert of Hindi songs by the singer Simrat Chhabra at the epicentre in Gurgaon. The music was of the Bollywood style and I was interested to hear how much of it blended Western harmonies with Indian instruments and vocal technique. On Independence day I saw an Indian Classical music recital in Delhi which was fantastic. I loved seeing the traditional music being celebrated and performed with such verve. Yesterday Aine and I met up with the sitar player Parimal Sadaphal. After having lunch we were privileged to hear him play and explain about Indian classical music. He shared many inspiring stories about his time touring the world with his guru Ravi Shankar.
Recital of Bollywood songs in Gurgaon

Indian Classical Music concert in Delhi
In Delhi, a place where personal safety is often mentioned as being an issue in the news, the most striking feature of the region for me has been the welcoming nature of the people. Indians are famous for their hospitality and I can see why. At school and where I live, my new Indian friends cannot have been kinder. It is perhaps because of this hospitality and constant feeding that I’ve been doing so much yoga! I also went for a run yesterday in Delhi but it’s tough running in the heat!

My thought for this week has been inspired by the patriotism I saw from the Indian people on Independence day. The day before, I saw an assembly at school where the Shri Ram children sung the national anthem and were told about the journey to freedom. On the day itself I went to a friend’s house in Delhi and flew some kites, this being a celebration of their freedom from colonial rule. I couldn’t help but see a parallel between then and now in the way that Western music threatens to take over traditional Hindustani music. Although concerts of Indian music are going on, many of the children prefer Western pop. I was convinced that the Institute of Music Dynamics should do more to promote Indian music to safeguard part of what makes Indian culture so special.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

From Avalon to Muktangan and back again.

A lovely Indian lady said to me 'if you can do Mumbai local trains, you can conquer anything.'

Becky and I are living in Vashi - a district in Navi Mumbai. To get to the center of Mumbai, the cheapest and fastest way to travel is by local trains. Stations are always packed and it's every wo/man for him/her self. We've been building up our confidence to take local trains for the past six weeks and now we're confident enough to do them on our own. With very little chance to sit down, doors that remain constantly open and the train itself speeding along with Mumbaikers hanging out the sides and sometimes riding on's anything but safe - English health and safety professionals would have kittens. Saying that, to carry out our work with Muktangan, a journey on these trains, alone, was inevitable.

On the first day, Duncan and Sam joined us at Sayani Road school in Parel - an area near central Mumbai. We arrived at the school and were immediately shown in to a teacher training class. Here was the first glimpse in to how music teachers are taught in old Mumbai. There were no instruments, the ladies (no men, at all) were being taught different songs and the basics of beat and pulse. This was interesting as it opened our eyes to the methodology used in the Muktangan schools. Before the lesson, we were asked not to comment so we just joined in as and when we judged appropriate.

After, we attended a planning meeting where fully trained teachers were taught new repertoire to deliver to their own classes. A lot of them were nursery rhymes and I've written some of them down to sing with my own children at Avalon. In this session, we were invited to play more of an active role and Ayush, one of the staff at Muktangan, asked us if we had any ideas that we could bring to the table. 'Bongalow' and 'Chickens and Hens' were a hit and the teachers had fun showing us their dance moves!

That afternoon, Sam and I went to a different school - Love Grove Pumping Municipal School (epic name!). This school was very hectic. One of the teachers from Muktangan accompanied us and we started off in 4th Standard (the kids in this class were about 9 years old). They were very...lively. It was rather chaotic and a lot of the children were fighting and throwing things at the ceiling fans as well as shouting at one another and just generally ignoring the teacher. I did the Bongalow which grabbed their attention for all of about five minutes. Sam and I were stunned to say the least. However, it was a fun lesson and never has 'pace' been more important in lessons with large numbers of kids.
The next lesson (5th Standard), was the complete opposite end of the spectrum. The children were attentive, they listened, they did as they were told, they were friendly, they tried really hard, still rather lively but it was like a breath of fresh air. Sam and I did the Bongalow, as well as 'I've been eaten by an Anaconda' (boa constrictors are a bit thin on the ground here) and 'Everywhere we go!' Ayush was in the school that afternoon running choir auditions and asked if we wanted to observe. I asked him to put us where we'd be most useful so we didn't observe and spent our time keeping the kids who weren't being auditioned entertained with fun songs. It was great for the music teacher here to let us get as involved as we did and everyone got a lot out of it.

Day two of Muktangan was spent with GMP school, also in Parel. Becky and I took more of an observing role and we learned so much from the music teacher there. They didn't really need us. A lot of western methods were already being implemented. The younger children (7-8 years) were displaying excellent rhythmic skills already, they were playing drums, shakers and claves all with correct technique so Becky and I joined in and had a relaxing day. Becky played her flute to a couple of the classes and created a game out of that which everyone enjoyed and we also got the chance to observe an art class. With Independence day this week, there were a lot of flags being drawn!

Tomorrow I am going by myself to Prabhadevi School. I'm being picked up from the station by Henrietta, a lovely British student who has also been living in Mumbai this summer. We met her on our first day at Muktangan and she's been very helpful.

As of Monday I'll be back at Avalon for our final full week in India and I'll make sure I squeeze out another blog post before we leave. This weekend we're hopefully going to make it to another Sacred Heart Church Choir rehearsal and do a workshop with them and maybe even do some work with another choir and kids from a children's home.

Today is Independence Day so we're dressed in appropriate Indian attire of white kurtis and flag colours (orange and green). Have a good weekend. Speak soon!


Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Apologies for silence from Kottayam!

Hi all!

Sorry for the lengthy silence from Kottayam, we've had no internet access for the last two weeks, and only have a quick few minutes in an internet cafe now. No signs yet that the internet connection in ACCM will be fixed any time soon so apologies if we aren't able to do a detailed post in the next few weeks.


Josh in Mumbai 4

It’s been a while since my last blog. I’d like to blame it on a busier-than-normal schedule, but it’s not really changed in the 5 weeks that I’ve been here.

I’m still enjoying the MMMF, but other than the piano teaching (that both teachers and students enjoy), I find the idea of suggesting new approaches rather difficult.  I’m surprised by the defensiveness of some staff when I question a process or suggest a different way of doing something.  Probably, again, because the MMMF prides itself on excellent facilities and good teachers. 
To mention just a few topics e.g; Outreach Work in Aseema (a state-run school in Bandra), the ‘need’ and layout of the practice diaries, parents’ attendance in lessons, theory class syllabus’, extra choir rehearsals and odd points in individual piano lessons. Every suggestion has been shot down or sneakily twisted into a “that’s good, but that’s not what we’re aiming to do right now” quote.

It’s also the same story when I teach an adult the piano. I’ve realized the routine now is; introduce yourself, sit down, and listen to the students’ personal record of achievements for the following 10 minutes - Something that I find remarkably self-protective and I find counter-intuitive to the lessons.

The Listeners’ Concert has been delayed a week due to a religious New Year so it’s now going to be on the 21st. I also wonder if the Foundation will appreciate my playing, as so far everyone that I’ve heard play has fully concentrated on correct notes within a piece, often sounding clinical and mechanical.  Whereas one of the (now obvious) main things I learnt though my music college was that correct notes aren’t the be-all and end-all of a performance.  I'll keep you all posted.

Rant over.

String Ensemble Rehearsal 8am-10:30 Sunday Mornings

I'm very much enjoying accompanying the choirs, and helping the string ensemble (pictured) as the rehearsal pianist.  We're currently learning the Toy Symphony for the Sept. 11th Concert.

I traveled to Lonavala by myself on Sunday the 4th, it was a great experience and I saw loads of tourisity spots before travelling back on the Monday evening, I saw (and got photos of); Karla Caves, Bushi Dam, Lonavala lake, and the ‘Points’ of Rajamachi, Lions, Sunset (Khanadala), Echo, Sunset (Ambavane)- and also Reywood Park.  The Wax museum was particularly.. hilarious.

Me in Lonavala.

I also went to a spa the other evening (which was particularly traumatising).  The massage was Ok but it was slightly overshadowed by the fact I’d had a heated debate with two of the male staff.  They produced what can only be described as a paper thong to be worn instead of underwear.  You could call it stubbornness; I prefer to class it as just being typically British, but I defended my current attire.  But that’s another story…  And no, I’m not going to say whether I wore it or not…

Thursday, 8 August 2013

All singing, all dancing at Avalon. Becky

All is crazy here at Avalon as most classes are off timetable and preparing for the huge school production next Saturday! This gives me licence to walk into any class of unoccupied children and run music workshops which is fantastic fun! Crowds singing and dancing along, making up their own rhythms, learning to listen to each other, competitively clapping notated rhythms and smiling a lot. One class of girls requested a song about friendship day, luckily I remembered an appropriate song one and we sang it round their teacher when she came in. Friendship day seems to be a big occasion here which means both Anna ma'am and I have so many ribbons, rings and child-sized bands put on our hands that it is surely a risk to circulation!

My Grade One classes are in the final stages of rehearsing their Jack and the Bean stalk presentations which is exciting - I have been haunted by those same songs for nearly a month now! I am very proud of what they have achieved: learning a lot of songs, singing in a round, playing percussion at appropriate moments (and sometimes they don't play in the inappropriate moments which is the real achievement!), writing their own lyrics and even creating their own backdrops.

The school production also means I have been drafted in to play guitar - a nice challenge for me! These songs are not the standard four-chord-wonders-in-easy-keys that are the staple for English school productions. They use raga and tabla with tunes I cannot predict and harmonies foreign to me - very exciting! Much practice needed.

Outside of school cultural exchange continues. We are learning a heart-throbbingly beautiful hindi song from the girls we live with and teaching them some keyboard to accompany it.

I am really keen to put on a concert to fund raise for local charity but finding a venue is proving more difficult than expected! Unlike other parts of Mumbai, there is not a western-music-concert-audience in Vashi, or so we have been told. We are continuing to try and our lovely friend Wilfred is calling on local contacts so hopefully it will happen! 

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Maria Gurgaon Post 4

After a month I’m feeling in a reflective mood about my time here in Gurgaon. Although I’m teaching a lot and growing to know my students more, I’m anxious for my stay here to have an impact that extends beyond the time I am here for. To do this I need to train the teachers as well as teach the children. However, this is difficult as in some of the areas there is no-one else teaching besides me, so as yet, I can’t pass my knowledge on to a successor. Nevertheless, there are vocal teachers I can train and I plan to give a workshop to them shortly.

Otherwise, my classroom music lessons are going well at Shri Ram were I have now covered the basics of rhythm, harmony and taught them about different instruments. Last week I started a Blues project with my students aged 11-14 and we have been looking at the historical and social background of the genre as well as singing some blues. Some students are very keen to sing in lessons whilst others are not so keen which can be a little disheartening. Still, I had some great Elvis Presley impressions from the boys when we sung his Rock’n’Roll version of the blues standard ‘Hound dog’.

This week I’ve been developing the Blues project in order to teach about different technical features that make up the blues. I’ve been encouraging an atmosphere of creativity which has been novel for my students who are used to a certain style of learning where they regurgitate given material. In today’s lesson for example I was asking pupils to write their own blues lyrics based on the standard AAB form. Once the strangeness of composing something of their own passed, I had some quite heartfelt responses- mostly about how my students hate maths!

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Áine in Gurgaon

Hello all!
Maria and I have now officially been over a month in Gurgaon, and goodness it is going quickly.
I am still recovering from a slightly manic, but nonetheless wonderful, week. With Indian Independence Day in our sights (the 15th of August), One World College of Music is deep into preparations for concerts for the big day. This week therefore has been full of rehearsals, and auditions by bands and solo acts who want to play.
A highlight of the programme is a patriotic song written by two brothers at the school, who I have been helping to mentor in composition. Having posited that a purely Western style of composition may not be entirely appropriate, a local Indian classical composer has been helping the boys compose various sections in a more Indian style, including a new ‘alap’ (free, improvisatory introduction). My class at the local NGO School, Sankalp, are also going to be joining the One World pupils for a patriotic marching song. The class now know their parts, but are yet to come to One World to have a rehearsal with the singers and drummers there. I’m preparing for utter chaos, as classes at OWCM are largely held in English, but my Sankalp pupils only speak Hindi.
The Group Project at OWCM
This weekend, OWCM also hosted a local jazz/fusion group, The Group Project, for a workshop on jazz composition and performance. I was really pleased to see that the workshop was really well attended by pupils of One World College of Music, who all seemed to get a lot out of the experience. Straight after the workshop, we all left for a jazz club in Gurgaon called the Speakeasy (a darkish basement with a stage under a marketplace), where the Group Project then performed. It was fascinating to see an Indian jazz club, but there was more than one tired looking face the next morning! This sort of workshop/school trip combination was a great experience, as seeing performers in action gave pupils something to aspire to, and their fusion attitude towards music showed pupils that Indian classical music could still be integrated into their music. The number of questions that students asked the band, and have continued to ask since (we have now started talking about using modes in jazz composition, how to write/notate music for different instruments from different cultures and so forth) have shown that the experience has really sparked their attention and interest in jazz and fusion music.

With an OWCM student's art work in Saket
Working seven days a week makes it somewhat hard to do many touristy things, but this week I have managed a few trips into Delhi, to my boss’s house, an art gallery district near Saket and to one of the large market places. A trip to Agra to see the Taj Mahal is hopefully on the cards after Independence Day with colleagues from school, and this week I plan to use a morning to visit the Qutab Minar and some other monuments in Delhi.

Visiting Mumbai and last month in Chennai

My school is shut at the fifth week of every month so I had the opportunities to visit Mumbai for a few days. From doing sightseeing during the day and meeting up with some friends and other WAMers during the evening, it has been an eye opener for me. The city has so much energy, youth, opportunities, as well as people and rubbish everywhere. Mumbai is so different than what I have experienced in Chennai and it was exciting to see all the similarities and differences between the two biggest coastal cities in India. It has also been great meeting and talking to people from Mumbai and hearing their insights about the city. I really had a great time in there and felt like I’ve learned a lot.

Also during my time in Mumbai, I went to Universal School from Furtados to do some classroom based teaching for the first time with Kerry. As much as I thought it would be relatively straight forward, I found it extremely difficult to engage with a large group of small children and making them sit and listen to what I’m teaching. I’m also assuming that some of them find it really difficult to understand me too which is not helping. Either way, I’m glad that I have stepped out of my comfort zone and tried something different than the one to one teaching that I’m used to. But nevertheless, it’s really nice to be back at Musee Musical and seeing all these lovely students once again.

Now, coming back to Chennai with a month remaining to teach in Musee Musical, I have a lot of work to get on and I have to pull myself together. It has been a lazy July for me and I felt like I haven’t done too much yet. This month, besides from the regular teaching hours, I have to start writing a report about the school in general which needs to be handed in when I leave. In addition to that, I would have to complete a small booklet that talks about the common problems that the students have in here so it will keep me busy for a while.

Just yesterday, I have met a visiting student in Musee Musical who has just completed his ATCL exam recently. We were sharing our piano experiences and it has been really encouraging to hear that he’s planning onto studying music at aboard after his mechanical engineering degree. He showed me a piece that he’s planning on playing for his Berkeley interview and I was amazed by his skills and techniques.  Despite not being able to give him much feedback on his playing, we had a good chat and shared our piano experiences and stories with each other. By hearing his piano learning experiences in Oman, we were discussing ways to incorporate better music teaching here at Chennai and it has given me something to think about and we promised to meet again.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Sam and Duncan - Garodia School, week 5

After two of our housemates left our flat we acquired one more except this one suffered the fate of being poisoned and, just after a few days, devoured by countless maggots in the corner of our garage. We don’t mind the stray dogs who have settled in our porch but this rat was really taking the biscuit (or should I say bananas – never have I bought so much fruit to see it literally disappear from one night to the next.) The somewhat squishy remains of the rat were eventually scooped up with the only equipment I could find in the garage: half a shovel and a large machete. I have pictures which I could have uploaded but I wanted to keep this blog relatively family friendly.

Anyway, the teaching in Garodia is going fantastically. The musical is getting its song list finalised and I now find myself rewriting the lyrics to the rap of Snap’s classic ‘I’ve Got the Power’. Meanwhile the arduous task of funnelling a choir of around twenty pupils to accompany a handful of soloists is underway. We’ve also been further deepening their listening skills through connecting pieces with aspects of life (Vivaldi’s Four Seasons proved more challenging than expected given that Indians do not experience similar seasonal changes to Vivaldi’s very Italian perspective of the year) and developing an understanding of aural skills through following contours of melodies and discerning changes in pitches.

We have also delved deep into the characteristics of different musical genres with the older children, and with the younger grades we have started to listen to and think about music creatively. One of the most successful activities had the children responding to pieces of music with movement and descriptive words and then coming up with their own titles for the pieces. For example, we played them some Scott Joplin and at the end of the activity they dubbed it ‘The Crazy Monkey Song’. Some of the responses from younger kids turned out to be very thoughtful and developed and some kids even came up with short stories inspired by music like Chopin’s Raindrop Prelude. The music teachers at Garodia are evidently enthusiastic about improving their lessons, and we’re doing our very best to leave a lasting impression.

Alongside the teaching we plucked up some courage and went on the school’s annual Monsoon Trek. This involved a 3 hour hot coach ride to the remote mountain region outside Mumbai called Lonavla. As we arrived in the very picturesque setting and vacated the coach we noticed that every child and teacher was covering themselves up with a rain sheet, which is when we realised that the feeble umbrellas we brought weren’t going to be enough. Many of the kids were also shocked when we said that we didn’t bring a change of clothes but really, how wet could it have been? The trek was phenomenal. The place was covered in waterfalls which locals dived into just to get even wetter. As we reached what we thought was the top, through the thick mist appeared more mountain and we continued to trek until we reached the apparently 2000 year old fort which was built into the rock face. Although the climb was difficult and disobeyed what appeared to be every Health and Safety rule we reached the top and instead of an immense view we saw more thick mist – it was truly lovely!

We were this wet for over 4 hours

Recently we took a trip to the Blue Frog, Mumbai’s answer to the lack of Ronnie Scott’s jazz club, which has seen performances from many Western artists, including Imogen Heap. The place was fantastic and made all the more better with the extremely talented band who played in many styles from Jazz, Funk, Rock, and a few Ballads (They even encored with a jazz version of Roxanne!)

Just this Wednesday, we sat in on a rehearsal for one of Mumbai’s premier adult choirs ‘The Stop Gaps’ following a recommendation from one of the school’s music teachers. We sang along and had a great time. On the following day, we attended a performance at the NCPA of the Junior Stop Gaps choir, and despite only being in Mumbai a month there were many familiar faces around the auditorium from various parts of the musical community. We really feel like we’re getting to know the music scene around Mumbai, and the great people involved in it.

Mumbai has a lot to offer and we’re certainly trying to get through it all. 

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Where are my chickens and my hens? - Avalon Update.

So what’s new in Vashi? We’re halfway through our adventure…scary stuff! I’ve decided that I don’t want to leave. Becky and I were discussing how we felt about India and we were both told before we left that India gets in your blood. We can definitely see why!

At the start of July, I was struggling with what do to with the nursery children. I spoke to my parents about it and they were very helpful. ‘Oh Cathryn, the songs we used to sing with you. Little Bunny Fou Fou! Try that, you used to LOVE singing along, scooping up the field mice and ‘bopping’ them on the head!’ I thought it was worth a shot so I tried it with all three of my nursery classes. It was a success and yes, they too, love singing:

Little Bunny Fou Fou hopping through the forest, scooping up the field mice and BOPPING them on the head!

They also love making ‘goon’ faces at me - another key part of the song. If you would like to know more about what becomes of the troublesome Fou Fou, google ‘The Singing Kettle.’ It, like sing up, is a great resource with a variety of songs to sing with younger children.

I had my first workshop with the day care children this week. They are a mixed bunch of children aged between about 5 and 13. For this, I started with a ‘copy what I do’ exercise. I had the kids arranged in a circle and then did various silly things to make everyone comfortable and laughing and also make their attention focused on me. Then we moved on to one of my favourite songs:

Where are my chickens and my hens? 2,3,4. Where are my chickens and my hens? 2,3,4. Where are my chickens? Where are my hens? Where are my chickens and my hens? 2,3,4.

A tap (beat) is passed around the circle as we sing the song (like a kind of hand rhyme) and the person who the tap lands on (at the end of the song), has to act like a chicken in the middle of the circle whilst the rest of us try to stifle laughs and giggles. We did that a few times so I had a nice little coup of chickens by the end. The kids were having fun and it put a smile on my face to see the urgency of which some children corrected my chicken wing flapping technique.

We then sang ‘Bongalow.’ Another song I picked up at university. This is great for learning each child’s name and making everyone feel involved as each person is called upon separately to show us how they ‘bongalow’ (dance). Becky’s grade 2 classes love this one also! They have some of the most enthusiastic and imaginative dance moves I’ve seen of young children. I then spent the rest of the session doing rhythm games with them and at the end, took requests for songs they would like to learn. We’ll start learning those today.

In my kindergarten classes I’m starting to do newer songs with them. I’ve done ‘I’ve been eaten by a boa constrictor!’ with my junior kindergarten class. Thanks be to Hannah Evans of Bath Spa University for teaching me that one. There are more sing up songs I’d like to teach them and I’ve got the backing tracks for them on a CD. Use of the CD is great for adding variety and keeping them engaged; some songs are unaccompanied, some are accompanied with the uke and other instruments and others are accompanied via backing tracks.

Muktangan workshops are in the process of being organised and there should be lots to report on that after the week of Indian independence day.

I hope everyone’s enjoying their summer. Speak soon!

Josh in Mumbai 3

I’m now nearly 4 weeks into this trip, having arrived here a week later than the other WAMers.  I’m still thoroughly enjoying it, and everyone at the Foundation is accustomed to me barging into a lesson and giving, what I hope is, a helpful opinion! 

Work is continuing steadily, I probably have around 12 personal piano students a week, while I take an active role in about 30 other piano lessons, run by both Tanusree and Wyomia, the two main piano teachers.  I can only really credit their ability as both pianists and teachers.  I have brought a few practice techniques to the table already, but they were already off to a brilliant start.  I can see why the Mehli Mehta Music Foundation takes pride in its high standards of teachers.

There is already structure within the Foundation, with theory classes and practice booklets a requirement for the students.  I have just started taking the intermediate theory classes, which are currently no more than Grade 2 ABRSM.  I think the long-term goal though is that the ‘intermediate’ level be Grades 3-4 and the ‘higher’ from Grades 5+.

I’m accompanying all 4 choirs, and will be performing with them in the Annual concert on the 11th September (performing in front of the Indian-born, world famous Zubin Mehta), before I fly back to the UK on the 13th.

I sometimes wonder whether a small syllabus could be put in place for the outreach work in Aseema (located in Bandra).  This is something I am going to discuss with the staff in due course.  I have also been talking about allowing certain parents into piano lessons (provided they are quiet) as there is currently an aura of ‘fearing and avoiding the parents’, while an obvious miscommunication occurs between student’s objectives and parents expectations.

I’ve also been added to the new MMMF prospectus.  I might be grabbing one before I leave!

Other than that, there’s not so much news really.  My first Listeners’ Club concert is going to be on the 14th, and I also met with the other Mumbai WAM lot (plus honorary Mumbai-for-4-days Adrian) the other day. It was quite nice to see some friendly faces.  I’ve heard that since 2008, tourism has dropped by more than 35%, (and considering it isn’t even tourist season at the moment) it would partly go to explaining why whenever I walk anywhere lots of Indians come up to me and talk to me.  Most of them being polite… but that's another story.