Goan-origin violinist Sanya Myla Cotta and her mentor Professor Ulf Klausenitzer are in Goa, in advance of the rest of the contingent of musicians scheduled to arrive in Goa from Germany for the upcoming David Menezes Violin competition and the Indo-German Confluence music festival. They spoke in an exclusive interview to the Navhind Times, along with Schubert Cotta, liaison co-ordinator and organiser of these events.

Welcome back to Goa, Herr Professor Klausenitzer! Could you tell us a little about what you have planned for the coming music events.

UK: This is part of the continuing tradition, as we have been doing at each visit to Goa over the years. I am this time in Goa for a month, which is longer than previous visits, so we are able to do more. I am this time round able to give more lessons, and this is important. People here are “hungry” to learn and are so enthusiastic. Teaching pupils who are so eager to learn is wonderful.

The David Menezes Violin competition will be held at Menezes Braganza hall on 25 & 26 November 2014. The five finalists will perform on the second day. The jury, apart from me, will include accomplished musicians and pedagogues from Germany and Belgium.

There will also be concerts of sacred music on 28 & 29 November, in North Goa (St. Jerome church Mapusa) and South Goa (Nossa Senhora de Saude, Cuncolim) respectively, in celebration of the Exposition of the sacred relics of St Francis Xavier this year. We have also been invited to give a concert in Belgaum on 30 November.

Sanya, you are the perfect bridge between East and West, as you have been shuttling back and forth between Germany and India literally since your birth. You inhabit both worlds comfortably. How do you view the music scene here over the years, and how can we make things even better?

Sa C: Over the years there has certainly been improvement, as has the awareness about music in general. There is still more room for improvement, of course. Music should be taught in schools, by teachers properly trained to do this. It will also help create employment for trained musicians. I see also a change among parents of pupils coming to me now. They sit through the lesson, they take notes, and are really interested in the process. And they will bring their children to concerts, I’m sure. Students are coming more regularly, and this time they are even younger, which is good. And of course, I’m been working with teachers as well, as I have done on past visits. The potential of the youth here is really quite huge.

So yes, the future does look bright in many respects. Schubert, you’ve been organising music events for many years, and now the David Menezes violin competition, the Indo-German Confluence concerts as well. What has been your experience from your vantage point?

Sch C: My passion for music made me want to organise events. One impetus was the fact that my own children were interested in and studying music. I felt we have to create the infrastructure. And I’ve always wanted to dream big. Whatever one starts, there has to be continuity to it. Planning events on this scale takes years of planning in advance. Schedules and itineraries have to be co-ordinated, and this takes a lot of correspondence, follow-up and commitment. Once the dates are aligned, one then books the concert venue, which is not always a sure thing. Then one has to appeal to sponsors. The CMM group has been very supportive here, as have our other sponsors.

Competitions had been organised before in Goa during my youth, but they suddenly stopped after a couple of runs. I did not want this to happen to something I organised. When one begins something of a certain standard, one has to maintain it for some years. Then it gets its own energy. We are on the verge of getting there with the David Menezes violin competition. And the reason we built the festival (Indo-German confluence) around it is that this way we also get a jury for the competition, and one event helps the other. And then comes the reaching out to contestants far and wide, making them aware of the competition and encouraging them to participate, and maintaining a standard all the while.

Through the organisation of events, one develops a network of contacts, whom you remain in touch with, and these are helpful for the future.

Then there is also the publicity, with invitations to the press for coverage, and encouraging from the public a culture of concert attendance, which gives these events a sense of occasion. To this end I also add a touch of glamour to these events, dressing up the stage and so forth. This makes these events inviting to those who wouldn’t otherwise have attended a concert. I feel this is important in the initial phase. There will come a time when it will be less and less necessary. One hopes that by this time, we’ll have achieved a robust concert-going public.

Now that you are in a position to offer more time for Goa and India, Prof. Klausenitzer, what are the plans you have in mind?

UK: I hope that the need for pedagogy can be addressed, and I would like to spend more and more time in Goa teaching, if the conditions to make this happen can be created. Goa with its natural scenic beauty is ideally poised to be an attractive destination for musicians and pedagogues, and it can easily become a cultural hub not just for India but for the whole world. All it takes would be the investment in a truly purpose-built concert hall with really good acoustics, and the rest is already there. With the Cotta family and yourself, there is already a good team working towards making Goa a significant destination for music, for concerts as well as for pedagogy of the highest level. Together we can make all this happen.

(An edited version of this article was published on 22 November 2014 in the Navhind Times Goa India)

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