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‘Indian music will live forever'

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Father's mantle: Geetha Ramanathan Bennett
Father's mantle: Geetha Ramanathan Bennett

GEETHA RAMANATHAN BENNETT

Parents play a very big part in the advancement of the youngsters.

Recently I had a chance to watch a television show aired from Chennai, in which youngsters were auditioned for singing Carnatic music. When I watched it, my first thought was that there are equally good young Indians in the U.S. who can sing like that. The interest for Indian music has increased tremendously here in the past twenty years, I would say.

I remember the days in the early 1970s, when my husband Dr. Frank Bennett and I would drive for more than a hundred miles to either New York or Poughkeepsie to listen to Dr. N. Ramani, Chinnamoulana Sahib, or S. Balachandar's concerts. Thanks to individuals such as Mr. V.K. Viswanathan and organisations such as Carnatic Music Association of North America, we were able to follow the musicians around for public and private concerts.

Top notch musicians

Now there are several organisers including the Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana, which bring in the top notch musicians from India all through the year, and we are able to hear their best in three to four-hour concerts.

These activities have of course exposed the young students and have motivated them to learn. Many of them start to learn from the teachers in town for the beginning lessons and, as they advance, go to India for the summer and continue with seasoned professionals. With the modern technology of Skype and online phones, they are able to continue lessons wherever the teacher resides.

Parents play a very big part in the advancement of these youngsters. Not only do they bring the children to the teachers' place to study in the evenings and the weekends during the school years, they also take them to India for the summers and this assures intense continuation of their lessons.

Some parents bring the teachers to their homes in the U.S. for a few months. Accompanists are also included so that the students get the complete training in presenting a concert with the support of these musicians.

I remember my father Sangita Kalanidhi Dr. S. Ramanathan teaching group lessons of twenty to thirty people at a time. He did not let us bring tape recorders to the classes.

He used to say that ‘if you have the tape version of the class, you would not pay attention as much. You have to get it into your brain first directly from the teacher rather than electronic equipment.' It worked for me and my generation, but now when I teach students here in the U.S., I insist that they bring their voice recorders and I send the whole song by email using mp3-s.

Unlike my father's classes which took place about five times a week, I only give individual classes lasting for 45 intense minutes once a week.

Thanks to devoted parents, students, teachers and modern technologies, Indian music will be around forever and will keep growing, I am sure.

(Website: www.geethabennett.net Email: bennett_geetha@yahoo.com)


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