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 hopefully 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.