Hitting the right note with education

Hitting the  right note  with education

The absence of a musical culture in our society is because music is given little or no attention in our education systems.

Of late, many upmarket educational institutions, often founded by affluent people have begun clamouring for sports to be made ‘part of education.’ Why sports and not music (or art)?

Sports and games that have ‘good prospects’ require significant investment that is out of reach for ordinary people, and yet is made readily available by these institutions. But any education, including sports education, sans the humanities – literature, music and painting – is in danger of brutalising both, its teachers and students.

Think of this: Do we not witness how professional sports often brings out the animal in players. Many such violent sportspersons have poor education records, but infamous prison records. 

But music is reassuring, calming, intellectual and spiritual. Sports can begin the development of personality but only music completes one’s personality. And they both need the operating platform called formal education. Education without music has populated India with malnourished, underdeveloped personalities, just what a nation must avoid to progress. 
Same goal

Like education, the purpose of music too is to set people free. Protests and revolts in the West have seldom failed to use the liberating power of music. But it’s a different story in India. Our movies are often known for their songs. This has given rise to a popular misconception that music is equal to songs and sets off many young people to learn music, although it takes a while before they realise they were misled. 

How often do we find buskers as one does in the West. Among many who busk (or jam) in the West include reputed professionals. music (and art) in the West was never confined to select audiences in select locations. This implies that we project in our movies what we lack in our lives. 
 How music helps

It is true, and somewhat unfortunate, that so far no successful Indian has so far attributed their success to music. But the story is a little different in the West. Here is an excerpt from an article ‘Is music the key to success?’ by Joanne Lipman (New York Times, Oct 12, 2013). The article begins by noting that ‘Condoleezza Rice trained to be a concert pianist. Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, was a professional clarinet and saxophone player. The article goes on to name many high-achievers such as Paul Allen, the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft (guitar) and Woody Allen (clarinet).  Larry Page, co-founder of Google, played saxophone in high school. Steven Spielberg is a clarinetist. The article, no doubt, focuses on westerners and in particular, Americans. Clearly the power of music remains untapped by most Indians who are not professional musicians.
What schools can do 

There are several examples of musicians who have dropped out of school or simply had no access to schooling. The great Gangubhai Hangal chose to spend time practising music than spend time in school. Such examples seem to suggest that schooling may not be necessary for music. True.

But not all can reach such heights. Success in formal education will be the only mantra for most people. But they too need exposure to music. This is where music must be made part of our education beginning at kindergarten where elementary music education must replace mindless singing of nursery rhymes or bhajans. 

Schools can begin and end their day with good music instead of hymns. How often do we find schools inviting musicians across genres to demonstrate their knowledge in their schools? Schools must stop compartmentalising activities: Singing and playing music shouldn’t be confined to special occasions such as cultural festivals or school days. 

Schools need to create an atmosphere of, not songs, but music. They must invite musicians to conduct concerts at least once a month. They must involve students in a discussion about music just as they are eagerly involve in political debates. Why should music be perceived as mere entertainment and not an integral part of personality development?

Young people are breaking free of reservations and freeing traditions from hierarchical residues, but at great cultural cost. Music can temper our young who are quickly getting sucked into living a fast life, imbuing them with patience and tolerance.

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