Music

Catching them young with a purpose

A.R. Rahman and Anil Srinivasan at Rhapsody’s fifth anniversary celebrations

A.R. Rahman and Anil Srinivasan at Rhapsody’s fifth anniversary celebrations  

The sky was overcast, and for once everyone, teachers, a handful of parents and children from private and government-owned schools, assembled in the foyer of the Tagore Hall, in the Government Music College campus, hoped against hope that it shouldn’t rain.

After all, how often do children from across age groups – 5 to 16 – get to showcase their musical skills to a private audience with A.R. Rahman seated in the centre. The maestro represents their musical aspirations.

When Rahman’s car drove into the campus, the already charged atmosphere, thanks to the excited children, turned magical. The brass orchestra of the KM Music Conservatory’s Sunshine Orchestra, helmed by UK-based Lisa, synced with the voice of the children and together they sang ‘Sare Jahaan Se Accha...’ It was the best birthday song for Rhapsody Music Initiatives that just turned five.

The moment was a reflection of the premise with which well-known pianist Anil Srinivasan launched Rhapsody, an initiative that has now turned into a movement. Nearly two lakh children from more than 144 schools from Chennai, Coimbatore, Madurai, Tiruchi, Puducherry, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi and Pune have been engaging with music not just to become performers but as a tool to learn and appreciate concepts pertaining to academics and life.

“For instance, our syllabus comprises a set of rhythmic patterns that allow children to understand fractions,” says Anil. “There’s another song that will help them understand the importance of chlorophyll in leaves. When children learn in the form of a song, they engage and internalise concepts better. The purpose of Rhapsody is to make art meaningful. Music is a great way to unlock their imagination.”

Rhapsody, which means a piece of music with no formal structure, didn’t happen on a whim. Before launching it, Anil spent some time understanding music lessons in schools. “It bothered me greatly that music was either about an annual day performance or a free period. The content too was troubling. We continue to make our toddlers sing a negative rhyme such as ‘London bridge is falling down’.”

Talking about content, Sudha Raja, a Chennai-based musician who helms the Sargam Choir for children and is deeply involved with Rhapsody too, has been carefully sieving through concepts that are a part of the CBSE and State Board curriculum. Anil and Sudha have developed a syllabus for children between the ages of 3 and 13. Their research translated into 444 lessons that are multi-modal, multi-genre and multi-disciplinary.

“In the process of teaching them, I have also learnt a lot,” says Sudha. “I have become more patient and keep developing innovate ways of reaching out to the young.”

As a work-in-progress and with collaboration being the key, a tie-up with Sunshine’s brass orchestra also marked Rhapsody’s fifth anniversary celebrations. The purpose is to develop brass ensembles in schools. Such initiatives means more children to learn and more music.

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Printable version | Sep 21, 2020 6:00:21 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/catching-them-young-with-a-purpose/article24230609.ece

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