June, 27, 2017
The soul purpose of music
01 Feb

Chennai-based classical pianist, Anil Srinivasan, talks about his plans for Rhapsody Music Education and how music must play its part in the creation of every child’s intelligence quotient

40-L-1His love for the piano started at the age of three. Today, he is a classical musician who has performed at venues ranging from the Southbank Centre in London to the Lincoln Centre in New York; been an artist-in-residence at the Sydney Opera House and at the National Centre for the Traditional Performing Arts in Korea; and collaborated with musical stalwarts from across the globe. He is the Chennai-based classical pianist, Anil Srinivasan. Music has brought balance to this 35-year-old’s life and he wants to do more for this art. A management graduate with an M.Phil in management from Columbia, Srinivasan has worked in the advertisement and market research industry. Though he is trained to be a corporate manager, he chose the life of a performer. And closest to his heart is imparting music education to the young. He believes that music should be a part of every school’s curriculum and wants to make it more deep-rooted in a child’s education process. To achieve this, he founded Rhapsody Music Education (Rhapsody) and musicians like Unni Krishnan and Aruna Sairam are its curriculum advisors. He shares with The Smart CEO his plans for Rhapsody which was incorporated six months back and shares his experience and learnings as an artist.

Tell us about Rhapsody and what you aim to achieve through this institution?

Rhapsody is my brain child.  The motivation of this organisation is purely social and the idea is to ensure that music graduates and music professionals should be employed in the music industry. So, I structured an enterprise that will place them in schools and ensure that they earn around Rs. 20,000 to Rs. 25,000 per month.  Another socially relevant reason behind this enterprise is that children in the age group of three years to 10 years need to be taught music not only as a specialised art form but also as a part of their education process in relation to subjects such as mathematics and science.  

My greatest inspiration in this regard is Shubha Mudgal who is a pioneer in thinking about music education.  One of the things that she supports which we have incorporated in our model is that music should be a part of a school’s curriculum. We have worked out a curriculum which integrates music into the intelligence quotient of the child through its linkages to other disciplines. There is a deeper focus when you get into the curriculum and work with school boards. This way, the trainer becomes gainfully employed and the child is getting input on music from an integrated level.

Scalability is important in any business but that is not the ambition of the enterprise. We would like to reach out to more number of schools. We’re entering Coimbatore in January 2013 and have started an outreach program with Agasthya Foundation which is based in Andhra Pradesh which takes mobile science laboratories to children in villages.  This December, we’re  starting a children’s music season.  We’re taking well known performers like Unni Krishnan and Sikkil Gurucharan to schools to interact with and perform for children. These sessions are not just kutcheries (concerts) but more like an interaction, explanation, storytelling and music. 

At heart, you’re an artist. What has art taught you that you implement in the management of Rhapsody?

Being in performing arts and working with the best names in performing arts, I have understood that there are only two to three philosophies that are important. You have to be very clear about your vision and principles and you have to hold on to them, no matter what temptations come your way. If I make my enterprise into a ‘super singer training academy’, I know I can make a lot of money overnight.  But I don’t compromise and that’s what my art has taught me.  And due to that, the utility of the enterprise has been established.

I have also learnt to understand my space as a performer. My credibility is because I perform on stage and not because I have an MBA. So, when I walk into a school and talk to school principals, they give me time because they know what I am talking about. And schools have started consulting me more and we’re becoming friends more than partners. I am happy with it as music is a community and am glad we’re in the business of building a community.

What was your biggest challenge in setting up and running this organisation?

Funds. This should be resolved if more number of schools start using our services and increase their budget for this.  But, we have to look at other models as well. We have to look at soft investments and I believe that the community should fund it. It should come in the form of subscriptions.  

What is your source of inspiration?

Truth. It may sound philosophical and clichéd, but when I am playing music it takes me back to my childhood and reminds me that there are certain things that are eternal and that is what I should stand for. If am not the most famous and richest person, it’s not going to kill me. I have my music, people who support me and a good community following.

What are your thoughts on talent Vs. practice?

It’s like a regression equation. Talent is the raw intercept that you’re born with and practice makes the curve steeper.

How do you feel every time you get on stage to perform?

I am most excited when I play – be it on stage or for friends at home. I am excited when I play because it’s the only space where I can be truthful. It’s just me, my instrument and my art. You finish your performance and when people appreciate it, it gives you a feeling of justification for your right to belong in this world. You’re adding value to people’s life and they are enjoying it. You feel that people are looking at you for the right reasons.

Please share with us your most memorable performance?

I played with carnatic vocalist, Sikkil Gurucharan, at a friend’s wedding at Dakshin Chitra. It started raining in the middle of the performance and it was open air. But nobody moved. People got drenched but continued listening. Two people covered the piano to ensure that it didn’t get wet. And the performance continued. Three stray dogs came and sat in the front row and listened. And as soon as I finished playing, the rain stopped.  We have performed at many venues but this is memorable because people had the right to move, but they didn’t. 

What has collaborating with various artists taught you?

There are five learnings. One, you have to listen to what the other person says. It’s not about getting your voice heard all the time. Second is patience. Collaborations take a long time to mature.  The very first concert is never going to be satisfactory. It’s like a merger between two different entities. There will be certain discomfort areas and until you find the comfort level, it’s going to take time. Third, bond as people first. You have to appeal to them first as a friend and then music will follow.  Fourth, you have to be very uncompromising on how you want the output to be and, therefore, you have to have a clear vision on what you want the output to be. You can’t just jam. You have to plan it out and know exactly where you’re going. Jamming doesn’t have longevity.  It may be exciting on stage visually but for longevity you have to do your homework. Music as anything in life is a process, you have to work on it and get your operations right. Fifth is proportion. You have to understand how much of yourself you have to hold back. You have to be very much in the moment and be alert.

While everyone that I have collaborated with is brilliant and talented and I am fond of them all, collaboration has worked best with Sikkil Gurucharan. We have become more like brothers than just musicians. 

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