As is the case every year, September 5 was celebrated as Teachers’ Day in India. While this date does not have significance in the calendar of events for Hindustani music aficionados, it might be a good moment to take stock of changing teaching methods within this system. Previously, this column has discussed the phenomenon of an increasing number of workshops and lecture-demonstrations in India and overseas. But online resources across multiple platforms have transformed the way Hindustani music is taught today. Indeed, those who wish to train themselves as professionals continue to adhere to the guru-shishya or master-disciple pedagogic method despite the changes that even this traditional format has seen. However, hobbyists or even serious amateurs who may not have easy access to their teachers have been taking recourse to lessons via Skype.
Online teaching sessions are lined up on an individual basis, when a student contacts a teacher directly without any intermediary institution. In such cases, no syllabus or coursework needs to be in place and there are no examinations or certificates that are handed out. Tuition fees are determined based upon the understanding between the teacher and student and the amounts are transferred via bank transfers or Paypal. But there are also cases where schools of music host online courses in a graded manner, with a syllabus in place, and certification of successful students after examinations. In such instances, teachers are engaged by these schools to teach students as per the syllabus. In some cases, the online presence of the schools is in addition to the teaching activity they undertake in classrooms situated in one or the other city.
From the most popular musicians and institutions to the not-so-famous ones, online lessons have become a reality that is inescapable. Given the pros and cons of what is offered by technology, it would be a matter of separate study to understand how and why changes may or not have been made to the actual teaching process and content imparted.
Short capsules inviting prospective students to try out these online lessons are available on Youtube. Interestingly, the classes may not necessarily focus on Hindustani music alone. In fact, analogies from popular music may also be provided, perhaps with an understanding that this is a requirement for making teaching sessions more accessible to wider audiences.
Here are two links to online sessions. The first one features the popular and much-loved vocalist and composer Shankar Mahadevan speaking about the online lessons hosted by his music academy.
The next one has well-known vocalist Ajoy Chakraborty conducting a short class on voice training, an extension of the content that is imparted in his Kolkata-based music school Shruti Nandan.