Learning opportunities aplenty and career avenues wide open, thanks to many Western Music schools that have come up recently.

For many youngsters, learning music, be it Indian classical or Western, might just be a hobby or passion. Even if they happen to be immensely talented in vocal or instrumental, only a few go on to become professional musicians. But in recent times, the scenario seems to be changing rapidly.

Learning Western classical music seems to be popular among the youth today and there are a good number of well-recognised schools that provide young musicians international exposure and the opportunity to study music in a structured manner. Gifted and motivated youth can now explore career avenues in the world of music. With collaborations, partnerships, dual-degree programmes and international faculty, musically oriented students can hone their talents and aim at international careers too.

Guitarist Prasanna, director of Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music (SAM), near Chennai, says, “A career in music is one of the most glamorous for the present generation.” Talented young musicians can learn certain other skills required for the industry and accelerate their global career, according to him. The school follows the traditional Gurukula system, where students and teachers live and dine together. “But SAM has a strong international focus in terms of syllabus, faculty and students. We have students from all over the world studying here. The idea is to blend the traditional Indian system of learning with American syllabus,” he says.

SAM collaborates with McNally Smith College, U.S., to offer semester-abroad programmes and also the credit-transfer system wherein students can do their degree programme upon completion of their diploma at SAM. The institute offers diploma in music performance.

At the Academy of Western Music (AWM), courses in Western music are offered in instrumental, vocal, theory and music production. A talent development centre, the AWM partners with Trinity College, U.K. and Rock School, U.K. for grading students. Chetan Acharya, director of AWM, who was initially into the business of selling Yamaha music instruments, decided to establish AWM in June this year. “Western music is a niche industry in India and the academy was set up in order to popularise western music and to encourage more youngsters to take up music,” Mr. Acharya says.

Think outside of film music

At SAM, musicians are introduced to various other music forms around the world. “With a holistic approach, these youngsters are trained to be well-rounded musicians, to think, feel and perform music,” says Prasanna. The institute enables them to find their specific niche and capitalise on it. When students are exposed to international music and faculty, they get the chance to research, blend and explore the possibilities in music.

“Indian musicians will have to choose their target audiences and go all out to get them. And with the tremendous avenues that the Internet provides, there is no limit,” says Saroop Ommen of The Unwind Centre. But a rock musician will not make the same money a film musician makes. That’s two different spaces, which sometimes meet, but rarely, he says.

AWM will soon offer a short-term course in music production, and such a course will be immensely beneficial to musicians. “The career path for musicians is well beyond film, advertisement jingles and teaching,” says Acharya. Today the career path is vast and varied. “Understanding the business of music is essential today. Managing studio, music band, all this requires efficient management and planning,” says Prasanna. Anyone who possesses musical knowledge and managerial skills can aim for an international career, he says.

Kahaan Shah, percussionist who had recently graduated from the K.M. School of Music and Technology, says that the awareness level about the scope of music is low. “All that one can think of is film music. But there are many other avenues and other kinds of music.”

Teaching options

“I see that generally people are of the opinion that there are no jobs for musicians. That is not correct. Music is such an integral part of society and it surely generates jobs for those who posses the talent,” says Adam Greig, director-academics, KM School of Music and Technology. There is a range of career options from playback to sound engineering and one must explore the opportunities that exist. “Most importantly there is a huge demand for Western classical teachers due to the increasing popularity of this genre of music across the country. There seems to be a dearth of qualified teachers to offer tuitions in piano and voice training,” says Greig.

Musicians, who conduct classes and train students for grading exams, are unable to cope with the increasing number of student enrolments.

“But mastering any classical art is not easy” says Augustine Paul, a well-known musician who teaches Theory of Music, piano and voice. “It demands a great deal of dedication and hard work.” With a number of music schools available in Chennai, an aspiring student can gain knowledge in this form without great difficulty. “With a good knowledge of western music, a wide spectrum of career avenues await musicians who can perform solo, with bands and orchestras, work in the recording studios, teach, compose, write music-related articles and manage music events,” he says adding, “A career in music can be well-paying and above all, entertaining and satisfying.”

Musicians must use every avenue possible from small venue gigs, to getting big paying concerts to using every possible internet vehicle available, says Oommen. Getting music out there is just the beginning. Follow-up with regular updates, micro or macro events; detailed programming to get the attention of the target audience is the journey. “So, the mantra is not to sit back in anger and defy, but to modify.”

A tough journey

Musician and composer Ghibran, who won a national award for best song in the film (his first film) Vaagai Sooda Vaa says systematic learning of music is important and grading exams must be taken seriously. He has cleared Grade VIII in piano and theory. “Due to family circumstances I had to take up a job at a very young age and therefore I started teaching keyboard to school children. After that I worked for an animation production company as composer, and after clearing eight grades, I started doing music composing for advertisement films. After doing 600 advertisement jingles, I decided to study music at La Salle College of Music in Singapore, as I was keen on developing a deep understanding of classical music. I learnt Western classical composition there and returned to set up my own recording studio in Chennai. The first film I worked for was Vaagai Sooda Vaa and after that there was no looking back.” “For anyone taking up music as a career, it is not an easy route to success. I have endured years of struggle, frustration and disappointment. I gave up hope many times, yet it was sheer passion and the dedication that I had for music that brought success so close to me.”