Saturday, 13 August 2011


Dear All,

Let me show you some lovely pictures. This is Noel and Joel in 2006 when Esme and Duncan visited Cochin. ( left, bottom of page)

...and the boys today. 

Nice to see their endurance and their enthusiasm.

There are about 60 students at the Amadeus Academy of Music and Fine Arts. There are children and adults from initial - grade 8 level and a few who are preparing for ATCL recital. They are like a big family as Simi describes it. Simi and Anthony compose the staff. Kids come on weekdays after school (3pm-8/9pm) and Saturday all day for aural and theory practice. In the mornings eager mums visit the school because they want to learn music either for their own good and amusement or because they would like to help their children and play duets with them. This is touching in the sense that music making appears to be much more than a subject. The school has good reputation. Countless calls from parents enquiring whether they could join. 'It is hard to say no but I prefer quality over quantity.' says Simi.
I soon realised what they are working for and found it easy to identify myself with their philosophy.
What can be done in two months?
The plan was to spend 2-3 weeks working on exam pieces, since most of the children will take an exam (Trinity Guildhall) in November, then we would start the preparation for the concert that takes place at the end of August. 

The exam pieces have been well prepared regarding correct interpretation of notes and rhythm so we could work on technical stability which was one of the main requests. We started with good posture meaning feet flat on the floor or on wooden blocks for little ones and stool adjusted to their height. This might seem banal though major technical problems can be solved only by taking care of this so I really hope the school will soon buy some piano stools and blocks. 
The next point was, as many of you mentioned in earlier blogs, how to accommodate arm weight and the whole body while playing. The causes or roots of the dis-ease are : 1) that many kids have only electric keyboard or synthesiser at home that simply don't respond to subtle changes of touch, weight, attack or the respond is different from what the acoustic piano gives. I can't do much about this 2) but the other one, and this is where the whole story gets interesting! One can be physically at ease only when the mind is at ease. If one knows what he is doing because he understands music, the meaning of the piece somehow the path opens up. The whole misery of technique, attack, weight, fingering disappers. I do say they are important but I tried to get there from a different angle. So we started to play imagination games. I asked them to make up a short story that we turned into music. E.g. 'the train' - trio for beginners: terzo is the train engine, secondo is the horn, primo is a passenger who sings a song. Terzo alternates two notes, minim C, D. Secondo plays two crotchets (C-E thirds) together with terzo's C. Primo 'sings' a tune using C,D,E,F,G in any order. We imagined the train going full speed and full of passengers ( fast attack and forte ) then a silent train during the night ( piano ) a train going up and down the hill ( crescendo-decrescendo ) bouncy train (staccato) tired train (legato)  added more notes according to the story. Quite a silly game but kids enjoyed it so much! And me too...They were freed from the prison of notation and loved interacting.
Students at intermediate level made up more complicated stories including primary chords, whole tone or chromatic scales, onomatopoeia like glissando, tremolo, cluster always carrying some meaning, expression.
After that we returned to pieces and tried to figure out what the story could be. What is beyond notes?

We are experimenting with a new practice chart that involves etudes, finger exercises not only scales, plus a bit of improvisation along with the pieces. Simi has the idea of creating a syllabus for the school that we are hoping to complete by the end of the month. Luckily there are so many tutor books and music scores thanks to Nadia Lasserson who sent a luggage full of treasure. Many others provided by past WAM-ers and Alex, who visited us a few weeks ago. HAPPY BIRTHDAY Alex!
I must pause for a minute and tell you a funny story. When I arrived Simi was complaining that kids don't know how to play 'Happy Birthday' and it is a shame that whenever one has birthday they can't jam. So Alex and me taught the tune at least 60 times :-) so from now on...

Antony and Simi are doing a great job with the kids. They provide everything. Not only knowledge  but something which can't be described by words. The kids know a lot, they are very receptive and well-mannered so it is a pleasure to be with them.
I am sure that our morning yoga/meditation also helps to build a good team :-)

In the next 'chapter' I tell you about     - our adventurous expedition of 'The sound of music'
                                                        - the mystery of solfa and modes
                                                        - the ABBA and Beatles craziness



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