It is with great sadness that I heard recently of the demise of the highly respected piano pedagogue Shanti Sheldon. She had been a formidable presence on Bombay’s classical music scene, and tutored several generations of pianists (notably among them Fali Pavri) during her decades of teaching in the city.
In the last years of her life, she led an increasingly reclusive lifestyle, and accepted very few visitors into her Cuffe Parade apartment overlooking the Arabian Sea.
I first heard about her in Goa through my own mentor and relative Vere da Silva, who regularly partnered with Sheldon in violin-piano recitals in the 1970s and earlier. As Vere’s 20th death anniversary is now approaching in 2014, I had begun to try and piece together his biography, and this is when I got interested in Sheldon’s story as well. I was gobsmacked that so little was known about such an eminent doyenne of the piano, in her home city, and even by many of her former students.
This is when I started to try and meet her myself. The journey was not an easy one, and I finally succeeded on the morning of 25 September 2012, literally days before her demise on 13 October 2012. (I was abroad when she passed away, and so have only heard the news a few days ago.)
She was extremely gracious, and was quite amused by my interest in her life story. Sadly, I was able to glean very little as she couldn’t remember too many details at the time.
She did mention to me that she took up the piano aged 7, and her first tutor was an Englishwoman named Ms. Fairfield (?her schoolteacher at Convent of Jesus and Mary, Clare Road Mumbai).
Even more sadly, there seems to be very little to find in cyberspace, although I am given to understand that a pithy obituary did appear in the Mumbai press after her death.
I reproduce here what I found. Click here for the original link.
“The day the music died
The diarist will miss the magic fingers of the citys most loved and revered pianist Shanti Sheldon,who passed away last week at 95.A teacher and mentor to almost all amateur and professional pianists in the south of Bombay,Sheldon was also an accomplished concert pianist who had trained in London for several years.In India,her concerts were always well attended and appreciated.In fact a young Zubin Mehta was also a page turner at some of her recitals back then.One of her many achievements included performing with the world renowned violinist Yehudi Menuhin.Her generations of students and protgs are coming together to pay a rich tribute to their beloved mentor,whose teaching career spanned a staggering six decades.
There will be two concerts – one in Scotland and one in Mumbai,played by pianists,Fali Pavri (an early student ) and Khursheed N Khurody (one of her more recent students) respectively.
It will be an emotional tribute and an effort to keep her legacy alive,we are told.”
May she rest in peace.
Please do contact me if anyone has further details of her life, her career, her concerts, interesting anecdotes, pictures, anything. We owe it to history, to posterity, to document her remarkable story before it gets lost irretrievably in the mists of time.