The music of Frank Anthony Public School’s well-known brass band is matched only by the continuous thump and hum of the guitars and drums from Sridhar Music School opposite it
For a single road with a wannabe name, Cambridge Road in Jogupalya is home to a whole lot of music.
The music of Frank Anthony Public School’s well-known brass band is matched only by the continuous thump and hum of the guitar and drums from Sridhar Music School (9591495962) right opposite it.
Since 1978, the Sridhar Music School has been teaching the basics of the two instruments to anyone older than seven. A majority of its students are schoolchildren, some of whom trek down from areas such as Banashankari and K.R. Puram; working professionals figure in its list too.
Founder Stephen Joseph, who is now a recording artist, grew up in the neighbourhood. One day, he noticed that the building had an empty room; he wandered upstairs and asked the landlord if he could use it to practice. “It was the end of the road then, almost a dead end for Bangalore city. I could make noise, so I was allowed there,” he said.
Starting out as a private practice room, it became a jam room, where Stephen’s musician friends visited and started requesting lessons. Jammer became teacher and also trained his son, Sunil Sridhar, who is now full-time faculty at the school.
The father-son duo has developed a distinct method of music teaching; they choose not to go the traditional route in teaching notation with clefs and staves. “The children find it difficult,” explained Sunil.
Technique to note
Instead, they write out notes — for both guitar and drums — directly as letters (for example, the note ‘A’ is not represented symbolically but simply by writing ‘A’), making it easier for children to read and play.
Guitar classes typically have about five to a class, while drums students get individual, hour-long sessions three days a week.
On Saturdays, Sunil and a few students and friends engage in freewheeling jam sessions.
Getting down to brass tacks
The music played just across the road at the Frank Anthony Public School — between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays — doesn’t involve guitar and drums. You’re more likely to see tubas, trumpets and clarinets; the school has a brass band, put together by V. Narayanswamy in 1987, at the request of the then principal A.J. Woods.
“There were two damaged trumpets, and three very badly damaged drums,” recalled Narayanswamy, who also conducts the Bangalore School of Music’s orchestra. A few months after he joined, the band, amidst budget and instrument procurement problems, put on a show, playing the popular hymn Abide With Me and Our Jolly Good Band, one of the conductor’s own compositions. “People were delirious. In this area, they hadn’t heard anything like it,” the founder said. “All the Anglo-Indians in the area were very happy to hear a band play Abide With Me, especially.”
Soon, the band began to be helped by the school’s alumni, who donated instruments. But there was another obstacle: the lack of sheet music for a brass band. So Narayanswamy played from memory: he grew up playing in the St Joseph’s brass band, and counts the experience as his primary education in music.
“I had played almost every instrument. I was like a spare part. So I knew how to write for all the parts.” Later, he befriended bandmasters from the army bands in the area, such as the ASC and MEG bands. “I thought I’d stay for a year, but I was bitten by the FAPS ‘bug’, as they call it,” Narayanswamy said.