Even though every aspect of our lives seems touched by technology, it’s still difficult to imagine a few things that can do without a face-to-face, in-person contact. Learning classical music from a revered guru is one of them. And yet, as it turns out, technology is coming to the aid of music gurus and students in ways they may never have imagined earlier.
With online video applications like Skype, geographical distance has become irrelevant. And many music gurus are showing perfect willingness to impart their lessons using technology.
Pune-based Hindustani classical singer Aparna Panshikar is one such guru who offers lessons via Skype. There are several others who are adopting this method in India now. When the idea was first floated to Aparna, she wasn’t averse to it at all. “I have always kept myself updated with the latest technology and so when one of my students, who was moving to the USA, wanted to continue her lessons, I thought of doing Skype lessons for her,” she says. And to convey this concept to people and probable students, Aparna put a separate page on her website and so far most of her students have approached her through the website.
“One of my musician friends from Boston, Curtis Bahn, also encouraged me with this idea. I did not find it strange at all. Many people, however, find it very strange even now,” she says.
Aparna’s students include NRIs and foreigners. “It has been going on really well since I began training students online. I have students training with me from USA, Australia, Chile and even in India from Delhi and Kochi. Most of my students are musicians themselves and so are very disciplined in their singing practice. Usually we have one lesson per week and they are always prepared with their homework,” says Aparna, who was in Kochi recently to record an album with one of the world’s fastest percussive bass guitarists, Jayen Varma.
The music gurus have no difficulty establishing a good rapport, in spite of most of their communication being online. “A student from Australia visited India in February and she stayed at my place for a week. I organised a concert of all my students in Pune. She and others sang in the concert and it was very well-received by the audience because she has been learning since March 2011 and she could sing five classical compositions really well. It was especially commendable because she is not an Indian and had to learn even the pronunciations in the compositions. And two of my students, one from the US and another from Delhi, watched this concert on Skype,” she says.
It’s not only the students based abroad who want to cash in on the advantages that technology offers us today. Even those living in the same city tend to use it. “A couple of students in Pune also train with me online as they live a little far off and travelling takes close to three hours,” she says. The students make payments via PayPal which is a safe and secure mode of transferring money online.
Initially, the interaction via Skype did come with its challenges, she says. “Earlier it was a problem because of the slow speed of the Internet in India. But nowadays, it is really good and almost all my students have the same applications on their devices, so we are able to match every little thing, right from the minute fine tuning of the key (Shruti) to tuning the tabla tempo and balance exactly on the same point of precision,” she says.