Napean Sea Road siblings bring piano back
Napean Sea Road siblings, who run a music school, are making the piano accessible
In one of the rooms at musician Shivani Patel's Napean Sea Road home stands a glossy, black Feurich piano. Despite its intimidating presence, the Austrian handcrafted instrument is voiced to not overpower the small room. Instead, the sounds are so warm and mellow that when Shivani invites us to tinkle with the ivories, we readily given in.
In the last six years, several young, aspiring musicians — some with zero experience — have started their journey with this entry-level piano at 88 - The Piano Academy that Shivani runs with her brother, Vivek. The classes are held at their spacious, sea-facing home. On weekdays, the sounds come alive post 3 pm, when the children return from school and troop in for music lessons. "We have kids as young as three, to whom we gently introduce the instrument," says Shivani, 30, who moved to Mumbai from Dubai in 2012.
"We approach the curriculum in such a manner that children don't see it as one of the many 'tuitions' parents have signed them up for," she adds. It's this casual yet disciplined, fun yet inspiring atmosphere, that has led to a steady rise in the number of students. From a mere six students in 2012, they now have a roster of 200, with some in waiting. "Till about a decade ago, it was difficult to have access to western music in Mumbai. You needed an instrument and access to teachers, both of which were difficult. It's this dearth that led us to be enablers and create opportunities," says Vivek, 28.
By public demand
Although both are trained musicians, they did not set out to open an academy. While Vivek is pursuing a CFA degree, Shivani is an MBA. In fact, if it wasn't for the musically inclined people around them who heard them perform, and insisted on them rolling out classes, the Patels would have hopped on to the corporate bandwagon. It's when you hear them play that you realise that they are doing what they are meant to be. "Our mother, Harsha, a classical Hindustani vocalist and pianist, got us to learn music early on. All three of us teach," she says. Along with singing, the classes have been fused with art exercises and pop quizzes to make it engaging.
But the piano isn't the only instrument that the siblings offer, there's also the saxophone and drums. They have roped in musicians who serve as visiting faculty at the school. The sessions are designed to be intimate; piano is held one-on-one, while drums and saxophone are conducted in a group because the instruments lend themselves to it. "Playing drums is a fun, dynamic experience, and it helps when you are playing with more people because then you can bounce off ideas and seek feedback," says Vivek. Having said that, the group is restricted to five to six students. The students often make the transition to other instruments after they have picked the nuances of the piano. "The piano is a great place to start because it gives you a sense of pitch, notes, chords and melody. It can be a solid foundation, from where the student can either move on to learn other instruments or stay with it," says Shivani.
Building music literacy
Since its inception, the academy has been holding an annual concert series titled Joie De Vivre for students to showcase their talent onstage on a grand piano. The recitals have been held at Bhavan's College, Chowpatty, and the G5A, Mahalaxmi, in the past. They have also introduced music appreciation over the weekends for select senior students, where they call in musican producers, piano technicians and tuners to discuss composition, different genres of music and musical pieces. "The idea is to not produce Mozarts and Beethovens, but passionate musicians, who truly appreciate sound and melody."
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