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Quality private music instruction

The questions you should ask before hiring a music teacher, and what to look for in a good music teacher.

Private music instruction is something many parents seek out for the kids. The most common times to look for music instruction is either at the beginning of the summer, or when school s starting again. When choosing a music teacher or school, there are several factors to consider.

First, what instrument does your child play or want to play? If it is piano or violin, chances are there are several teachers in the area who can teach it. If it is something less common, such as bassoon or string bass, there may be few if any teachers in your area. If there is only one teacher in your area for your child s instrument, don t immediately hire him or her. Look at his credentials to see if he is qualified to teach this instrument. If you can t find a well-qualified teacher in your area, you may need to look elsewhere.

The places you can look for quality teachers include: local music shops (to make recommendations or teach in-house lessons), local universities, local school music teachers, the phone book (private music schools will be listed), or through word of mouth. Ask friends for their children s teachers names. Get recommendations from any school music teachers or music shop owners in your area. Make sure you get multiple recommendations.

Once you have a list of potential teachers in your area, compile a list of questions to ask these people when you meet them. These are all questions you should ask:

*Do you play this instrument professionally? If not, do you play a similar instrument professionally?

*How long have you been playing this instrument? How long have you been a musician?

*What is your education in music? Do you have any degrees? In performance or education?

*What age kids do you feel most comfortable working with? What level of performance are you most comfortable with?

*What is your philosophy of music education? Do you work on musical skills not directly related to the instrument?

Expect that your teacher has extensive performance experience on the instrument, even if it is not the instrument he plays primarily. For example, many violinists also perform on, and teach viola or other string instruments. Clarinetists may play and teach saxophone or vice versa. The teacher should have studied and performed quite a lot on whatever instrument he is teaching.

It s best to get someone who is at least studying to be a musician or teacher, rather than a high school student. Someone who is a sophomore or higher will have teaching and field experience, or more extensive performance experience. A bachelor s degree or even higher is better for some teachers; but higher education isn t going to be everything, especially with younger students.

Your teacher should feel comfortable working with kids of your child s age and ability level. He should also teach skills besides the basic instrument. A good, thorough music teacher will work on rhythm, pitch, music reading, and other basic skills with a young musician. If the teacher says he doesn t do this, be hesitant in hiring him unless he is gifted at teaching the instrument.

A red flag in teaching the instrument itself is if the teacher insists on using the exact same books with everyone, and teaching by the same method all the time. A good private teacher should adapt his method to each student who comes in. He should also be flexible in what expects during lessons. If a teacher seems like he requires students to be very highly prepared all the time, that he isn t willing to answer questions or help a student, that he pushes his students too hard, don t hire him.

Look for someone you like, with whom you feel you and your student can work. Someone who teaches the whole musician and not just the instrument. Someone who is flexible with you and your child. Someone who has extensive experience and knows what they re talking about. If you check into this, you will hire an excellent teacher, and have a great musical experience!

Written by Catherine Hillard -

Short Takes: Multani

The final episode of Short Takes deals with the eponymous Raga Multani, and with it, we bring closure on our discussions concerning the nature and structure of Ragas. Throughout our discussion,

Raga Multani

Multani is among the 'big' Ragas, highly regarded by the afficionado of vocal music for its weighty mien and wide melodic compass. Although its basic swaric material is drawn from the Todi thAT - S r g m P d N - it carries no hint or trace of the Todi Raganga. Multani has a highly evolved and independent swaroopa all its own.

< -- Pandit Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande

Let us examine the Raga lakshaNAs. To recap the notation convention: a swara enclosed in brackets represents a kaNa (grace) to the swara immediately following it. The single quote ' on a swara situates it in the mandra saptaka, the double quote " situates it in the tAra saptaka.

S, N' S g (S)r(N')S

Both r and d are dropped in Arohi prayogas; the avaroha is sampoorNa. The peculiar ucchAraNa (intonation) of r mediated by a kaNa (grace) of S is vital to Multani. Recall the vastly different behavior of Todi in this region, with its deergha r and an intimate coupling with g. An inopportune nyAsa on r spells the kiss of death for Multani. Further divergence between Todi and Multani in matters concerning g is suggested in the next tonal strip.

N' S (m)g m P, m P (m)g, m g (S)r(N')S

Characteristic of Multani is the Arohi ucchAraNa of g : it is tugged with m as in m , it has the effect of raising the shruti of g to a location above its nominal komal value. This in turn elevates the shruti of r . These microtonal nuances are later demonstrated tellingly by Pandit Ramashreya Jha "Ramrang." The teevra madhyam in Multani is very close to the pancham, in the latter's penumbra, as it were.

P, (m)g P, P (P)d(m)P, P (m)g, m g m g (S)r(N')S

The treatment of d is congruent to that accorded r . The purNAvritti (repetition) of m g in avarohi prayogas is a point of note. As is the langhan of m , occasionally from g to P and more often through a meeND-laden avarohi P to g . The importance of a powerful pancham to Multani should be evident by now.

(m)g m P N, N, S", S" g" (S")r"(N)S"

The uttarAnga launch proceeds thus, with a deergha N . The sharp m P N curve presents a source of discomfort to many a Khayal singer especially in the faster passages; the tendency to instead detour through m d N must be checked.

S", N S" N d P, m P (m)g, m g m g (S)r(N')S

This sentence completes the overall avarohi picture.

Obiter dictum: In his magnum opus, Hindustani Sangeet Paddhati , Pandit Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande remarks that Multani is considered the daytime counterpart of the nightly Raga Basant. He adds that the Rampur musicians of the Tansen tradition sing a g -laden version of the latter by the name Utari Basant.

Pandit Ramashreya Jha "Ramrang" at the author's home in Goa (2001) -- >

My deepest thanks go to the usual cast of accomplices: Romesh Aeri, Ashok Ambardar, Sir Vish Krishnan, V.N. Muthukumar, Ajay Nerurkar and Dr. Guri Singh. Anita Thakur, as everyone knows by now, has been my partner-in-crime during the past three years.

Epilogue (January 2003)

For the past three years beginning in early 2000, I have been writing about the internal constitution of Ragas. The proceedings of this inquiry are now part of the SAWF archives. The time has come for me to call it a day. As can be gathered from the desultory arrangement of the topics, this set of articles was not planned, there was no conscious design to the undertaking. What began as an informal jaunt with a posting or two on the Usenet newsgroup rec.music.indian.classical (RMIC) on the urging of a couple of friends developed a life and momentum of its own. If I had had my way, I would have stopped after the first 2 or 3 episodes and returned to my default state of fainéant leisure. But at the time I had not reckoned with or appreciated the superior powers of persuasion - and coercion - of the charming girls at SAWF.

I like to view these ruminations in the spirit of entries made in a personal diary during the course of an unfinished journey through the universe of Raga. And much like a travelogue, they include descriptions and opinions of the sights, sounds and objects encountered, records of emotional experiences, and recollections of those moments of frisson that cap the occasional instance of insight or surprise. I count it as my singular fortune to have had privileged access to the ride perched on the shoulders of vidwans of the calibre of Pandit Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande and Pandit Ramashreya Jha "Ramrang." I lay no claim to having accomplished anything original and fain cede ground on that score to the many 'original' worthies who walk this earth and to whom Dr. Johnson has paid a handsome tribute: Your manuscript is both original and good. But the part which is original is not good and the part which is good is not original.

Raga - and the Ananda it brings - is best experienced firsthand, by renewing and recreating it in the hallways of your own mind, not vicariously or through the written word. I am anxious that a Raga not be viewed as merely an ensemble of rules defined by Aroha and avaroha, vAdi-samvAdi pairs, and a tissue of characteristic phrases and chalans. A nyAsa swara here and a skipped swara there are important and necessary details while speaking about Raga, true. But where do these considerations come from? Are they merely whims ossified by convention? Or is there a deeper basis? My hope is that I have successfully suggested some of the answers. That, at its foundations, Indian music is governed by what I refer to as The Laws of Melodic Ethics (the Indian term is Raga Dharma). Pandit Bhatkhande's monumental achievement lay in seeing and abstracting the nature of these 'laws' from the thicket of melodic observations. What seem like 'rules' to the innocent eye are, upon contemplation, revealed to be 'truths' to the sAdhaka. Pandit Einstein could well have been talking about Indian music when he wrote:

It is the privilege of man's moral genius, impersonated by inspired individuals, to advance ethical axioms which are so comprehensive and so well founded that men will accept them as grounded in the vast mass of their individual emotional experiences. Ethical axioms are founded and tested not very differently from the axioms of science. Truth is what stands the test of experience. (vide Out of My Later Years .)

My other motivation at keeping up with this series has a less noble ring to it. By becoming engineers and doctors, India's best minds today have ceded the business of explicating India's heritage to foreigners. These cultural outsiders - overwhelmingly Westerners - are mostly of third-rate intellectual quality (the smartest Americans are not studying India). Ours is perhaps the only major civilization whose primary interpretations in English are initiated and written by outsiders and then lapped up by our urban, English-educated elite as canonical. It is my unshakable conviction that India's primary interpretations must come from those who have been brought up in, and who have lived and practiced, that tradition. Seeing ourselves through the Westerner's lens won't do any good (as a minor sidelight, consider the absurd label "South Asian" in SAWF, an identity foisted on us by the US State Department and accepted without demur).

A good number of Western academics ensconced in prestigious universities who are purportedly "friends" of India and Indian tradition have over the years revealed, in addition to mediocre scholarship, their unholy, selfish motives, and their racism, the latter cleverly disguised with suitable escape hatches. In this context, my views on the ethnopimps (they call themselves "ethnomusicologists") do not bear repetition. Those Indians in the know seldom speak out publicly, thwarted by either the sheer ugliness of the issues involved or by the fear of giving offense. I wrote these features as a way of saying to these Western vultures that we will henceforth not sit by silently while you prey on, misrepresent, mischaracterize and music games toolking our tradition. The notice has been served: we will no longer be your "native informants" and your lab rats to be exploited en route to your career and tenure. Perhaps we are already beginning to see a faint shimmering of an Indian Renaissance. Rajiv Malhotra's outstanding work at The Infinity Foundation merits mention in this connection.

That said, it must be underscored that the best in India's heritage belongs not just to Indians but to the whole human family. This brings to mind Rabindranath Thakur and his transcendental utterings, which have coalesced into a mantra, guiding my heart, mind and spirit towards that ideal which defines the enlightened, sAttvic life:

Whatever we understand and enjoy in human products instantly becomes ours, wherever they might have their origin. Let me feel with unalloyed gladness that all the great glories of man are mine.

On that note, Dhanyavaad and Goodbye.

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