From former astronauts to Michelin-starred chefs and philharmonic orchestras, Mumbai played host to fascinating visitors in the week that went by. Across different platforms, each left their imprint on the city.
This journalist had the privilege to speak with Alexander Briger, musical director of the touring Australian World Orchestra (AWO) that was on its maiden visit to India, under the baton of maestro Zubin Mehta. The accolades that followed the orchestra at each venue was overwhelming, to say the least.
Back to our interaction with Mr. Briger. Let’s be frank. We were expecting an intimidating voice at the other end of the phone line, one that would possibly overwhelm us. Far from it, soon, we were engaged in a frank exchange of ideas about India and Australia, cricket, food, and of course, music. By the end, there was fodder for thought, and the realisation of a genuine respect for another country’s musical traditions. “India’s rich music history must trickle down to every student in its classrooms,” he suggested, sharing with us the experience of the orchestra during a crash course in western classical music that they conducted with a few young Mumbai school kids from less privileged backgrounds. “It was the first time that they had heard such music, of greats like Beethoven. It was an honour,” he articulated, sounding humbled by the experience.
Briger cited the need for schools at every level to introduce and sustain music as part of the curriculum. He went on to share its integral role in the education system in Australia, and how its long-term benefits had nurtured amazing young talent. We listened intently, and couldn’t help but think in our heads, ‘What if this could be played out in Mumbai’s, and India’s schools?’ We had to leave the thought as we signed out of an engaging interview.
A few days later, as we soaked in the sounds of music during the AWO’S concert at the NCPA, a sparkling addition at the start of the performance beautifully drove home Briger’s point. A few young Indian violinists, introduced by none other than the maestro performed their renditions of India’s and Australia’s National Anthems. It gave us goose bumps. Displaying laudable skill, these pint-sized musicians, earned the applause of a packed, knowledgeable audience at NCPA’s Jamshed Bhabha auditorium, after just three months of tutelage.
Imagine the number of musicians we would give shape to if music were to be an integral part of our education system across levels and boards? The world needs to see and hear more of India’s music talent, and no better place than our schools to lay the foundation.
The writer is Features Editor of mid-day