A week-long music workshop was held for school children in the city on the occasion of Fete-de-la-musique

Dressed in an elegant black, a piano was parked in one corner of a classroom at the K.M. Music Conservatory (KMMC). Few minutes later, a flautist entered the room carrying the key flute. Soon after, a cattle drum, a French horn, a trumpet and finally, the marimba, a percussion instrument that looks like the big brother of the xylophone, was wheeled into the room. It was almost as if a congregation of musical instruments from different pockets of the world was taking place at KMMC in front of the students from Venugopal Vidyalaya and Chennai High School. These students were invited to attend a music workshop conducted this past week as part of Fete-de-la-musique, a week-long celebration of world music in Chennai co-organized by Goethe Institut, Alliance Francaise Madras, Rhapsody- Education through Music, InKo Centre, KM Music Conservatory and Musee Musicals.

“I like the violin, actually”, said Vinisha, a seventh standard student from Venugopal Vidyalaya. When asked why, she said “It is extremely fascinating and looks quite difficult to play”. This was, however, seconds before the marimba and the cattle drum were introduced in the room. Both the marimba and the cattle drum piqued the curiosity of the students who had never seen the two instruments before. They gushed with excitement when the instruments were brought in, because Adam Greig, the conductor of the workshop and Diploma Program Leader, KMMC, promised them that they could try their hand at playing both instruments at the end of the workshop that day. And, understandably, at the end of the session that day, Vinisha was seen near the marimba trying her hand at playing the instrument.

During the workshop, Greig explained the origin and type of each instrument in the room and demonstrated the manner of playing them. The workshop also comprised simple exercises in symphony sound production, a video screening of a symphony orchestra followed by a performance by the KMMC faculty. “Workshops like these help in introducing students to the various forms of musical instruments and even give them an opportunity to try these instruments which they do not get to do otherwise”, felt Greig.

The previous day, at the InKo Centre, a similar workshop was conducted for the students of Chennai Central by Jus Drums-School of Percussion followed by two instructors from KMMC. S.Muralikrishnan who runs Jus Drums, brought an ensemble of drums belonging to India as well as Korea and oriented the students with their names and showed how to play the different drums.

The buk, a barrel drum from Korea, was the easiest to remember for the children. “It sounds exactly like the book that you are all familiar with. Your books are something that you will never be allowed to forget, anyway. So, I think you’ll remember this drum” he said in jest. He then introduced the chidren to the ‘janggu’, an hourglass-shaped drum from Korea, the ‘jangattai’, a drum that is played in the temples of Karnataka, and the ‘timula’, a drum from Kerala that is part of the panchavadyam. At the end of the workshop, each child had a favourite drum. It was either the name of the drum that was fascinating or the sound. “I like the Jing because of how royal it sounds,”said Adi from Chennai Central.

The flute was yet another favourite amongst the children. Both at KMMC and InKo Centre, Jeremy Woodruff, flautist and Academic Co-ordinator, Preparatory Programme, KMMC taught the students aspects of the flute, the reason behind its shape and played classical compositions by Bach. The students were then handed the flute to try and this caused a furore of excitement with each child trying to blow into the instrument to the make the sound that Woodruff just so easily produced.

“What workshops like these also highlight is the importance of music education in our schools. We need more of these to make music available for more children,” said Sudha Raja, Principal Faculty, Rhapsody Music Education Private Limited.

Teachers from the schools that were present at the workshop felt that they could go back and try a similar workshop back in their schools. “We, as teachers can learn here and perhaps think about going back to our schools and implementing something like this”, said Indira Nagarajan who teaches at Venugopal Vidyalaya.