Wednesday, 8 August 2012

The Delhi Diary 2012

After a slow start in which many lessons were cancelled, things have started moving very quickly.  The One World College of Music runs as a musical community in which students are encouraged to spend quite a lot of time participating in musical activities aside from just instrumental lessons.  Musical ensembles and bands can use the college as a space to rehearse and workshops are taken in which they get to sample instruments other than their own, learn and improve their theoretical knowledge and hone in on specific elements such as rhythm or songwriting.  This idea of a community extends to the staff as well who have weekly meetings in which they develop ideas and share teaching methods in order to develop and progress themselves as teachers. 

Being assigned ensembles to work with already within a week of arriving, I found my lack of knowledge of instruments other than my own (predominantly piano, flute, voice) to be a burden and upon discussing this in a staff meeting we agreed that it would be beneficial for the teachers to teach each other so that we all have a basic theoretical and practical understanding of as many instruments as possible.  Thus, I have found myself being given drum and guitar lessons which comes in very handy for the more creative workshops in which I can instruct real beginners on how to play basic drum riffs and how to find various chord positions on the guitar.  I think this environment in which everybody is learning gives more motivation to the teachers and, through making everybody both student and teacher, dismantles a lot of potential hierarchies.

I have taken on the challenge of organizing and carrying out a ‘launch party’ for the school, which only opened this year.  The aim is to hold an open evening where workshops are conducted by various teachers and students enabling potential students, parents and the general public to attend and participate to see what actually goes on here.  Following this, a concert will be held, showcasing various ensembles and concluding with a choir concert. 

I have been taking choirs every Thursday evening and Saturday afternoon since we decided to go ahead and turn the idea into a reality and, with many of the students struggling to pitch notes of the Western scales, this has certainly been a challenging experience... 

In addition to working at the One World College of Music, Rosie and I have been teaching three mornings a week to the children from the Sankalp school - an NGO run school which runs on volunteers and donations.   This provides an interesting variation in our teaching and our main duties, as requested by the head teacher, are to ‘train them fully in preparation for a singing concert.’  Thus, we set about teaching them ‘My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean’ and have recently moved on to a couple of rounds and trying to explain the difference between a crochet and a quaver. 

One of the most fulfilling things that Rosie and I have been doing is teaching in the slums on a Sunday afternoon.  We met Sylvester two Sundays ago, an amazing man who dedicates his life to educating and helping children from the slums to give them better life opportunities.  After we chatted over biscuits and tea he took us into the slum to meet the children and visit 'the academy'.  A very surreal experience because although I've been in many poor parts of India, this really was a community of people living in shacks with nothing really and to be welcomed into that environment without feeling like an intruder felt like a great privilege.  One of the boys told me 'if you have love in your heart and are doing it for the right reasons than we will love you and welcome you into our lives' which was incredibly touching.  With all their Indian fabrics draped here and there, they still manage to make 'the slum' look oddly cosy.  The academy, which is a school of 80-90 children exists in one incredibly small room.  Nevertheless, about 30-40 of us managed to cram in and we were all sitting on the floor (Rosie and I were given a piece of fabric to sit on) getting introduced and telling stories - some of the children were spilling out of the doorway trying to listen in.  They asked us some questions about England and music and we sang them a couple of songs (Hey Unguwa and Black in the Colour - two rounds which I am teaching in the choir at school so Rosie could join in).  The room has two old computers (the type we used to have in the 90s); there are a few broken keyboards which they use for practising their English spelling.  Nothing goes to waste.  We sat in there for a couple of hours and as we left it had become dark.  The children cheerfully led us out to the car and one little girl held my hand all the way.  We're going back every Sunday to teach them some songs and a basic introduction to Western music, theory and history.  Many of the children are actually very competent in English and so, whenever something seems misunderstood, one of the older boys (the eldest, who collects us from the metro is 22) will translate and explain more thoroughly in Hindi.  

I have agreed amongst the children that I will teach them music if they teach me Hindi and so, every so often one of them whispers something in my ear - for example 'aapko class kaisa laga' means 'how did you feel the class went?'.  When I pronounce it wrong with my English tongue, they all laugh uproariously!

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