Years ago, when Shankar Mahadevan became part of the Indian music industry, youngsters from middle-class families didn’t see huge opportunities in the field. The singer-composer feels that today, when there are so many possible avenues for them, the country lags in providing world-class music education. He runs an online academy in his name, which teaches different genres and styles of vocal and instrumental music and has an ambitious dream of creating an international music school in the country at par with the best ones abroad.
“There is not even a single music academy in the country that we can be proud of. There is nothing world class here like Berklee, Juliard or the New York School of Music that you can invite the international community to look at,” Shankar said in an interview. We need a good music academy. That’s my vision. I wish to create the Harvard of Music in this country. That’s my aim,” he said.
Talking of his online academy, he said, “It has been six years. If you search on the internet about learning music online, my academy comes number one. We are now teaching Indian classical music in 72 countries.” Headquartered in Bengaluru, the academy has an outreach in Palo Alto, California.
Apart from good education, Shankar touched upon the weightiness of individual efforts to be able “to learn it (music) with depth”. “You can’t run away from the fact that you cannot ignore hard work. You need to learn it with depth.”
He said that a one-hit wonder is a different category and to become a qualified musician, one has to practice. “Practice is the only way out. Listen to music from all around the world. Work on not becoming good, but excellent.”
Shankar stressed that so many different avenues have opened for youngsters to get their talent recognised. “This is the time for youngsters. Reality shows are a great opportunity, a great avenue. Lakhs and lakhs of entries come in for them. Thirty years back, young talented people in the interiors of a state only had talent. They did not know where to display it. For them, to come to a metro like Bombay (Mumbai), finding out a way would have consumed a lifetime. But now there is a direction.”
The musician became a part of the Festival of Education organised by GEMS Education and the Rajasthan government in Jaipur earlier this month. He also emphasised on the need to change the education system, where music is generally treated as an extra-curricular activity.
“I want it to be part of every school. Music in our schools is considered to be an extra-curricular activity in which you teach your students a few patriotic songs and bhajans that children are not interested in. Teachers are themselves not interested.” Can education and music work together to inspire students? “It is a very, very strong tool of communicating. You can make someone cry, you can make someone laugh through it. The ego of a person goes away and he becomes a kid and gets inspired,” he said.
“If you are teaching a kid about seasons, you can put it in a song. He will definitely take interest,” he said, adding, “I wish to put every physics formula into a song and it will become very easy for the student to learn. I just have to get down to it and I know that I will do it.”