Master Class

Inside Swarmayee Gurukul,the cool air vibrates with the sound of music.

Written by Debjani Paul | Published: June 4, 2013 3:21:49 am

Celebrating the 10th anniversary of Swarmayee Gurukul,founder Prabha Atre shares how the academy has evolved over the years

Inside Swarmayee Gurukul,the cool air vibrates with the sound of music. Near the old building that houses the gurukul,Jangli Maharaj Road buzzes with vehicles and people purposefully rush towards another working day. The students inside the gurukul,however,are in no hurry to rush out anywhere. “For the students,music is their life and profession. It’s not something they do on the side,” says Prabha Atre,renowned vocalist and founder of the gurukul.

This year,as the gurukul celebrates its 10th anniversary,Atre looks back at the past and says,“I have been housing students and teaching them music since the ’70s,but in 2003,I set up the gurukul formally so that I could teach students who wanted to make music their way of life.” Over the years,Atre has trained and taught several students,who went on to become accomplished vocalists,such as Arati Thakur Kundalkar,Ashvini Vyaghrambhai Modak and Asha Parasnis Joshi amongst others. She also gets students from Holland,Japan,Switzerland and the US,who spend three to four months studying intensive music programmes. “Students from the gurukul have gone on to teach at universities,perform at concerts and some have settled abroad,” she says.

Most students who attend the academy have already had musical training and come to hone their knowledge and prowess. But Swarmayee also conducts beginners’ classes for amateurs who simply wish to explore music as a hobby. Every month the institute hosts a baithak (gathering) and academic programmes where young talent and established artistes perform.

“Music is not just about singing. Students should learn how to use the microphone,face the audience and explain the music. They experience all this through the baithak,” says Atre. All the performances are without tickets and are open to the public. “We also want to train the general audience to be good listeners. They can encourage good artists and keep a check so that music can progress in the right direction,” she says.

To celebrate the academy’s 10th anniversary,the gurukul will host an additional lecture-demonstration session each month,along with the regular baithak. The lecture-demonstrations will be themed around different gharanas and their differing styles and focus.

Atre has added a library of books and CDs,a small recording studio and an auditorium to the institute. She has also opened branches in Mumbai,New Panvel and Solapur. Recently,the institute also received a grant from the state government in honour of Bhimsen Joshi. “It is not much,but donations and grants like these always come as encouragements,” she says.

Looking ahead,Atre has plans to expand the gurukul to accommodate more students and increase its activities. “No matter how much you learn from books,students have to see how their guru practices music and imbibe it,” she says.

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