This weekend it might be worthwhile examining what we can do, individually and collectively, to create a better musical milieu or environment for our children to grow up in.
· Make music a more important part of your own life. Prior to the advent of television and recorded sound, music-making in homes was the norm, and more of us were inclined to be able to sing or play an instrument.
In an earlier article in this column I had cited several scientific studies demonstrating the link between music and intelligence, better school grades, etc. In addition to this, music is a confirmed stress-buster, and a safe, ‘legal’ mood-enhancer. A recent Norwegian study has concluded that singing, especially in groups “has a positive effect on perceived well-being and general health” partly as a result of social bonds created in the process. Furthermore, singing whether in groups or alone triggers the release of endorphins, boosting one’s feelings of happiness and pleasure.
In addition to the beneficial effects of music to yourself and your family, having music occupy a more prominent position in your daily life makes it more likely that your children will be drawn to it. It is no coincidence that so many musicians, whether classical or otherwise, grew up surrounded by music in childhood. It’s really a win-win situation.
So if you had learnt to play an instrument in your younger years but stopped, dust it off and start again. If you sang in choirs in church and elsewhere, join the many choirs already in existence or help start up a whole new initiative. Have more live music from family members and friends at parties and occasions. It’s far more fun than flipping a switch on a stereo system.
· But this is not to discount the importance of listening to good music. Technology has brought this just a mouse-click away. You may not have an expensive hi-fi, but a good internet connection can get you access to a lifetime of music. There’s YouTube and iTunes, and some 24-hour internet radio stations offering classical music that I highly recommend (Google “BBC Radio 3” and http://www.npr.org). It is a good idea to have music playing in the house, so that young ears listen to and get used to the sound of good music played well.
Also, access to CDs, DVDs and MP3 files has never been easier. In addition to local music stores, there are online options as well. The Rhythm House website (www.rhythmhouse.in) offers online shopping and free deliveries for orders beyond a threshold amount. The other websites are eBay, Amazon, Flipkart among so many others. It is important to start building a library of music that can be returned to. The sleeve notes of CDs and DVDs are informative, and each successive ‘listen’ reveals fresh insights to a diligent listener. And it is a good preparation ground for the live concert experience.
· Whenever a high-quality music workshop is offered to our children, we should grab the chance with both hands. The Giving Voice to India course is a unique, ambitious, consistent, top-notch initiative offered several times a year in several Indian states including Goa by globally-acclaimed soprano Patricia Rozario. One would expected the uptake to be the highest in Goa, but the commitment and dedication shown by youth in Mumbai, Pune and other cities far outstrips that seen in Goa. This is Goa’s loss; it is our children’s loss. And we parents have to realise this and do something about it.
· Help in ensuring a much more active concert calendar in Goa. Regular concerts by visiting artistes are hugely important in firing the imagination of young minds and in creating an ever more discerning audience. The story of the great cellist Pablo Casals is a good case in point. Had he not been exposed to the sound of a cello at a young age, his life could very well have gone in another direction, and the world would have been immeasurably poorer. The easiest way to help would be to attend the concerts and bring your family and children older than six years along. Concerts take a lot of effort and expense to organise, and it is very demoralising to performers and organisers alike, to say nothing of the financial implications if they are then sparsely attended. And it spreads the word among the music world (a tightly-knit circle, even though they are across the globe) that Goa is not receptive enough compared to Mumbai and Pune, etc. I know this first-hand from several musicians who have given me this feedback. It really is tragic when performers touring India decide to bypass Goa for a whole host of reasons which should be properly addressed in another article. Every concert missed is an opportunity missed.
The other ways one can help should also be discussed at greater length, but briefly, you can help by finding sponsors or being one yourself, spreading the word, helping with graphic design of posters, distribution and putting up of posters at strategic locations, printing and sale of donation passes and volunteering to help at concerts, at the door, and logistic support before the event. Do get in touch if you wish to help in any way (firstname.lastname@example.org).
(An edited version of this article was published on 12 January 2014 in my weekend column ‘On the Upbeat’ in the Panorama section of the Navhind Times Goa India)