Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Music Mumbai

Hello, Hannah here, writing from Avalon Heights School, Navi Mumbai.

 Well I'm just beginning my 3rd week here and am beginning to really get a feel for how music education works in my school/ Mumbai in general. I've been given three mornings a week in kindergarten (3 and 4 year olds - so cute!) and two days a week with junior age children (ages 5 to 11), which involves classroom teaching in the mornings and helping out in the keyboard classes in the afternoons.I have also observed a few of the lessons given by the singing teacher which has been really interesting.

 In kindergarten I am pretty much trying to get the kids to recognize musical ideas such as 'high' and 'low', loud and quiet, getting them to sing together (as opposed to randomly starting/stopping whenever they feel like it), call and response etc, clapping games. The class teachers requested I sing songs related to the present class topic (plants in lower kindergarten, health in upper), which has been great, the kids get a whole cross-curricular lesson! After only 2 weeks they are already showing real progress, they can recognize high and low notes, can sing as a response to my call, and have been having lots of fun learning dances as well. Another great thing is that the teachers are really supportive and interested, singing and dancing along with me and the kids, and generally being fantastic. We have an open day next Saturday where we will hopefully get to showcase some of the songs they have learned.

In the Juniors it's a slightly different ball game, and I feel I have yet to establish a proper routine. As yet I haven't been given a proper timetable, instead I'm used as a cover teacher, dropped into lessons at a moments notice to spend half an hour playing games and singing songs etc. Whilst this is fun I really would like to be given a routine, as I don't feel prepared for my lessons and am finding it hard to keep a track of where I have been and what I have done. Whilst the teachers are all very enthusiastic about my classes, and the kids are receptive, enthusiastic and very quick to catch on to musical ideas, I feel that I'm seen as a 'fun' teacher rather than as a person teaching a real subject.

This view seems to be prevalent across the city; an Indian friend who teaches music at another international school feels his subject is sidelined in favor of maths/ science etc, and that he is given less respect then teachers of these subjects. Whilst this happens in the UK as well, I am beginning to appreciate how much effort, training and funding goes into music education there. Where I work in London every borough has a music service which provides specialist music teachers to schools. These teachers are trained, supported, paid well (ish), have access to a wealth of resources. In schools the value of music is appreciated and teachers go out of their way to encourage and support musical activity (at least most of the time).

Here music teachers receive no training, are part of no overall body, do not have access to schemes of work or to sessions with other music teachers. Hence the teaching, or at least a lot of the keyboard/vocal teaching I have observed, is somewhat chaotic and often not suitable for the size of class or ability of the students. Students are singled out whilst the rest of the class chats, meaning that they never get a feel for communal music making, something which, in my opinion, is one of the joys of working in a large group.The teachers simply have not had the opportunities to learn good group songs or to teach music as a classroom subject as they themselves learned privately and only have that experience to go on. However, this approach does mean that individual children have little self-conciousness and are happy to sing alone in front of their friends and teacher, something which kids in London always find hard.

In spite of a lack of timetable I do feel like I can be useful whilst I am here. I am working with the keyboard teacher (who has to deal with up to 20 unruly kids who turn up with or without their instruments and with or without their books), and giving him ideas about teaching instrumental lessons to a large group, games to play etc. I am also going to run a music workshop for the school teachers; I will use the opportunity to preach the virtue of music education to the utmost of my abilities! The singing teacher and I also have some sessions in kindergarten together so we can swap ideas and songs.

In other news, Ronald and I did a couple of workshops in an orphanage at the weekend; 100 boys in a room makes for a fun if rowdy experience, especially if Ronald is dong baboon impressions for their amusement! I have found myself playing violin with a cool singer/songwriter dude from Nepal who has got us a gig at the Blue Frog which will be wicked. We also are planning a few workshops with Furtado's, a local music shop, and for the British Council. Ronald and I are also doing some string quartet (three violins and a viola, who needs cellos) playing with a violin teacher and his student at Garodia school which is really fun. We are just working on learning folk tunes by ear and playing along with some stuff they learned, it's less of a teaching thing and more just a playing thing which is so nice to do.

We also got to see Charis (the 3rd Mumbai WAMmer) give a piano recital at her school which was a real treat.
I'm trying to get involved in the Indian music scene here as much as possible, I'm looking for a teacher and will be attending as many concerts as I can. In general I am loving Mumbai; the trains and the rains are amazing, the food is fab, and even the grumpy potty-mouthed Scottish man who hangs around my apartment isn't too annoying.

Hope everyone else is having a great time too!

Hannah x

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