Trends With September being celebrated as Classical Music Month and National Piano Month, MetroPlus talks to musicians on the popularity of this form of music and of the piano in Bangalore

Dr. Ashley William Joseph

Director and Conductor, Indian National Symphony Orchestra and 100 Year Old Bangalore Musical Association, Director - William Joseph International Academy for Performing Arts

The study of Western Classical Music is a beautiful journey that culminates in a symphony. This form of music is popular among today’s youngsters and that wasn’t the case about 25 years ago, when Western Music was considered only for the older, elite crowd. Today, the education of western music has taken a new dimension with teachers employing new methods and techniques.

With the advent of electronic music, during the 1990s, acoustic music took a beating. New sounds were heard. Electronic music was much easier to play than the traditional Western classical music. Youngsters moved into this zone which carried on for about 15 to 20 years and now we see a resurrection of Western Classical Music in many parts of the world.

The piano is still one of the most popular instruments. It is what I consider the king of all instruments, which could be played solo, adds spice to a rock and pop band, and sounds beautiful with a symphony orchestra.

Neecia Majolly

Concert pianist, conductor, singer, teacher and composer

Being a concert pianist and a teacher myself, I take special delight when students play on a piano and remark, “Oh, this feels so nice!” The touch of the piano cannot be compared to a keyboard, and for good reason. If you open up a piano you can see the mechanical complexity involved, and understand how sound is produced via hammers and strings. This is what sets the tone of the piano apart. It is human! The notes give beautiful overtones that an electronic instrument cannot produce, and one can vary the touch of the fingers to such minute degrees in order to produce a variety of shades and colours.

There are calls almost every day for lessons, so I feel western classical music is very popular. It is heartening to see young people attending concerts, and becoming more serious in their approach to classical music.

Preetam Koilpillai

Musician and theatre artiste

There are more institutions teaching western classical music today than there were some years ago, and nearly the entire student body of these institutions is made up of young people. There are more concerts, workshops and far more opportunities for young people to engage with western classical music. However I cannot really say whether this is indicative of classical music becoming more popular. It might be just a matter of numbers. The population of Bangalore has grown exponentially in the last few years, and hence the demand for educational services of every kind has automatically increased. Having said that, there still remains a high demand for piano lessons. Most good teachers and schools of music have long waiting lists and learning the piano is not exclusive to having a serious interest in rock, jazz, pop, fusion, electronica, etc. In fact most young people I’ve interacted with are aware that having a solid piano technique will invariably help playing any kind of keyboard instrument in any genre of music.

Aruna Zachariah

Content writer and part-time piano accompanist

I think that a lot of young people are interested in learning to play the piano, as is evident from the constant demand for piano teachers. What’s great is that there are so many options available today – you can learn classical piano music if you want, or jazz if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, or simple chords, or even a three-month crash-course on basic piano playing. There’s also the Internet and YouTube with tons of amazing piano tutorials.

The only issue is that many young people don’t realise how much hard work goes into learning to play the piano. It takes years before you even begin to sound remotely professional. And to reach that stage, you have to be willing to not only practice your music consistently, but also do the more arduous and less appealing stuff like learning scales and familiarising yourself with music theory. It’s at this point that many kids unfortunately quit playing the piano. The regret hits them much later. I've met so many people in their 50s and 60s who wish they’d stuck on with their piano lessons when they were younger.