Tracing a musical journey

From the albums

Tracing a musical journey

This picture was taken in 1990 at All Saint’s Church a little before the New Year. The photograph is etched in my memory because my entire family came together, not only to celebrate the New Year but also for the christening ceremony of my niece.

We are a family of musicians, so whenever we got together, we would make it a point to sing. This also livened up the atmosphere because each of us would break into the four-part harmony in choral music. In the picture is Rachel, my little sister, who is also a singer. She was one among the very few women who took to the real estate business in the City. It was unusual for women to venture into real estate but my sister took up the challenge and did well for herself.

    Virginie, another sister, is also a singer and taught at Bishop Cotton Girls’ School until she relocated to New Zealand with her husband Sam, who was earlier working in the City in the hotel industry. My mother used to play the piano and actively sing in the choir at one time. My father, maestro JT William Joseph, was one of the pioneers of Western classical music in the City and is no more. He is also in the picture. I started my musical journey under the guidance of my father.

I began singing in the school choir and trying my hand at the brass instruments that were available back then. My father led the Bangalore Musical Association and I was always a part of their rehearsals. Today, I head the Association in the capacity of director and conductor. I was greatly interested in orchestral and symphonic music and my first influences in the same began when my father started The Bangalore Chamber Orchestra in the early 1970s.

   I would always accompany my father to all the choir practice sessions. I remember travelling in an auto to pick up choir members who would congregate for rehearsals at the St Andrew’s Church. I would also be sent with an old aluminium kettle to buy tea from the nearby tea stall. I still remember how my father would sit and write symphonic scores by just listening to them once on the record player. These were not only my early lessons in music but the experiences that came with them have taught me a great deal.

For us, the time around New Year was always a time for musical celebrations and experiments with music. It was pretty evident early on in my life that I would become a musician and take it up as a profession. As far as I can remember, I grew up listening to Western classical music and jazz on the LP records. I also remember tuning in to Radio Ceylon early morning and listening to it before going to school. Sunday afternoons, I would tune into BBC radio broadcast for the beautiful hymns. All this further fuelled my interest in music.

While music held strong on one side, I decided to take up mechanical engineering because after music my second interest lay in understanding the mechanics of cars and bikes. I always enjoyed getting my hands dirty and greasy.

The change in my career happened when I was selected under a scholarship to pursue a degree in music. This was unheard of back then in India and people thought it was a waste of time to study music. But I was determined to pursue music as a career. It’s here that I went through the grind of everything related to music and music education.

I have performed across the globe but a few years ago I decided to spend more time in the City to share my knowledge and experiences in music, dance and theatre. Hence, I set up the Indian National Symphony Orchestra which draws the finest musicians from across the country and the world. Looking back, my musical journey has been peppered with memorable experiences, which I share with my students and fellow musicians at the Indian National Symphony Orchestra.

Ashley can be contacted on 9844119956
Ashley William Joseph

(As told to Nina C George)

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