India's oldest western music school turns 100

India's oldest western music school turns 100

India's oldest western music school turns 100

The Calcutta School of Music, India's oldest Western music school, celebrates its centenary in 2014. The school will showcase its rich heritage through Western Classical music recitals, non-classical and popular music renditions this year.

Though the school's core remains the Western classical music, it is also expanding into the relatively lesser-known realm of musical theatre, its president Dickoo Nowroji told IANS.

"It is the oldest in the country. We started out with around 40 students but now we have over a 1,000 students as we turn 100. We have also catered to the growing popularity of non-classical and popular music and inculcated these in our classes," Nowroji said.

"The Indian music section is a flourishing discipline and we will also showcase that during our concerts," Nowroji added.

Founded in 1914 by violinist and musician Phillipe Sandre, it was then the first Western music school in the country and over the years it has evolved from imparting training in all forms of Western music to dance, speech training, elocution, drama and Indian music.To mark its centenary, the institution will highlight, through concerts and lecture demonstrations, the wide variety of disciplines covered by the school. 

Spanning the entire year, artists from abroad as well as teachers and a former student will participate.

The stellar line-up includes Uberto Orlando (an Italian flautist) and a lecture demonstration by Clarence Barlow, eminent alumni of the school and currently the Professor of Composition at the University of Santa Barbara, US, among others.After Phillipe Sandre's departure, the Calcutta School of Music rose to be the premier institution for Western classical music, courtesy of expatriate musicians and educators, and the advent of liberalisation.

"We have seen that children like performing in music ensembles and there is an inclination towards musical theatre. We will focus on that in the future. The demand for Western classical grows day by day," Dickoo Nowroji said.

The school developed the Calcutta Symphony Orchestra under Senor Casanovas, a Spanish conductor, who took over as the principal after Sandre. The orchestra grew and performed with several renowned international artists, including Daniel Barenboim and Yehudi Menuhin.

Another landmark event in its history was the inheritance of a chamber orchestra, which originated in the Oxford Mission, Behala.

A priest called Father Mathieson, himself a fine cellist, taught music to children in an orphanage. 

So, the Calcutta Chamber Orchestra came to the Calcutta School of Music from the Calcutta Foundation in 2005 and has since been trained and honed into a professional orchestra.

In 1976, Pandit Ravi Shankar inaugurated its Indian music section. "It started out as a Western school of music but there is an increasing demand for other forms of music and speech training. They are becoming very popular," Nowroji said.

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