Recently, Dr Sarvamangala Shankar was nominated as the Vice-Chancellor of Dr Gangubai Hangal Music and Performing Arts University, Mysore, a post that had remained vacant since December last year.
City Express chats with her about her vision for the music varsity, and the changes that she hopes to bring to music education during her term there.
What are your plans for the university? What systems are already in place, and how do you plan to build upon them?
What we have as of now are Bachelor of Arts courses: in Hindustani vocal, Carnatic vocal, violin in Carnatic and harmonium and tabla. For dance, we have Bharatanatyam and Kathak. A degree in drama was also proposed this year, but it didn't take off because there are no students.
I've noticed that there is insufficient teaching and non-teaching staff. The library too needs attention, and there's no building or staff for the drama course. This is a course we should capitalise on, because Bangalore is a hub for theatre, and acting comes in useful even if you want to try your hand at TV serials, which many people do now.
So I feel I have to start from scratch. And I look forward to setting all this up, but I'm afraid that my four-year-term might finish before that. Now, I'm taking a month to settle in and observe what other requirements are there.
Are you planning to introduce any other forms of music or short-term courses or workshops?
I think I'd rather focus on delivering quality and enhancing the courses that are currently there rather than introducing other forms. But workshops, symposia, seminars and short-term courses have been on my mind, and these I hope to throw open to music students and music lovers alike. They could be about how to sing padas or javalis.
What do you think about the music education scene in Karnataka now?
Only three colleges in the state offer a Bachelor's degree in music — the two Maharani's Colleges in Bangalore and Mysore and APS College, Bangalore. For Hindustani music, there are courses in Northern Karnataka. But what we should focus on now is to bring in the latest developments into the courses. Related subjects such are recording and acoustics for live performance should be included.
Courses should keep youngsters in mind and imbibe modern technology. So we should also look at offering music with other combinations, packaging the course more attractively -- perhaps journalism and women studies, as opposed to the traditional history, political science and the rest.
How about writing for music? As a writer yourself, do you feel this is an area that requires attention?
It's true that a lot of musicians aren't great writers. It has to change, and why can't it if we ensure that both the theoretical and practical aspects of the course are passed on correctly? But will these writings, especially findings through research be accessible to music lovers as well? I'll start with my example. My research was on Swaravachanas (musical compositions in the poetic form). Recently, I launched a book on the same topic in simpler language. I think this is a practice that should be encouraged.