When I joined the Delhi School of Music (DSM), after depositing the first fees for the quarter, I was introduced to my teacher, Ms M Mitra.
An old Bengali lady, looked like a typical school teacher. Again that skeptical look and “OK-What-to-do-I-have-to-teach-you” approach, I could feel that!
After mutual discussion, I was allotted Saturday morning one single sitting of two hours from 7-30 to 9-30 am as the class session.
One good thing about DSM was, each class session, only one student for one teacher in one big room.
I was given one Bombay address from where I had to get through postal delivery some practical and theory books for Grade-1, which I got in a few weeks time.
It was then I learned about the perspective of the lessons and syllabus ahead.
Just for the benefit of readers, I am giving that following information/details.
The DSM is affiliated to Associated Board of Royal School of Music, London and all the syllabus and exams were to be followed as per their system.
Every six month, the exams are conducted all over the world. The papers set at ABRSM is distributed in all these exam centres and the written papers are sent to London for correction and results declared.
For practical exams, musical experts from ABRSM, London also visits on the exam date and allot marks based on the performance of the student.
At the “School” level, there are Eight Grades to be approached systematically alongwith the theory and practical exams.
Based on the progress of the students in the class room, the teacher and the Director of DSM select the students for appearing in the appropriate exams.
After Grade-8 of school level, further diploma, college, research level of music courses are continuing.
(Later I learnt that in UK, the two famous old Universities are Oxford and Cambridge. While Trinity School/College of Music is associated with Oxford University, the Royal School/college of Music is associated with Cambridge University. In case of Royal School/College of Music, The Queen is normally the Patron and hence the name “Royal” is associated with that.
As we know, IR attended the course of Trinity School of Music and got the gold medal in Grade-8 for Guitar practicals.)
I was totally astonished to know these details. I never thought of such a rigid, systematic approach with exams etc to be encountered by me when I joined the school.
My aim was simple, viz. I shall know what is WCM, so that I can understand and appreciate IR music well. Thats all ! Very narrow minded I was !
Anyway, having entered the fray, I shall utilize this wonderful opportunity.
Thus it started!
After attending a few initial classes, I realized that I was in a soup!
Though earlier I had some knowledge of harmonium and keyboard, I was able to play any single line melody with one hand. But, the real piano playing demanded two hands playing.
Even for Grade-1 level, even the nursery rhyme type of small four line songs etc, (which I started like a child), demanded high attention and practice to play with both hands!
Also, when you are an amateur player, you never bother about timing beats etc, and feel happy to play anything with any timing, with any mistakes etc and just enjoy yourself. But when it comes to learning, everything else matters.
More important thing is reading your notes, understanding and grasping what it is, then your fingers shall move to the corresponding position, play the notes, and play only for the duration required and keep on moving! For two hand two different notes, different duration etc etc! At a time synchronization of mind, eyes, hands etc are required!
It was hell!
Not only to me also to my teacher Ms Mitra! The way she gets angry and frowns and shouts, you suddenly feel like Tom and Jerry situation, with all your nerves and mind getting rigid and you feel like a small mouse!
At the age of 25, those were different experiences!
Really, my aim started shifting from learning the music as a hobby to “how to satisfy this old lady and survive the two hours of class every week?”
That means very vigorous practicing at evening hours at Karol Bagh Penny’s house.
But there also, you were having limitations of time and visitors distraction etc [how much I remained a “siva-poojai-karadi” in their daily routines is another moot point!] Anyhow, I had to do that!
Not only practicing for a particular class, but also to practice lessons ahead so that atleast my first time show will be “tolerable” to Ms Mitra!
Then it was really like “Avvai Shanmugi” (Chachi 420) running for me !
Start from Nehru Place office by 6 PM, 7 pm reach Karol Bagh, get freshen up, start running to Penny’s house and reach by 7-20 to 7-30, practice for 30 to 45 minutes, by the time dinner time starts, get out of the house and go to hotel, have food and reach back room by 9-30 pm etc!
Now I can laugh at, then it was not like that!
Poor Mitra had to suffer a lot with tension, and I used to mug-up the lines and played as-if-I-am reading from note book! That also she checked and suddenly will start from in-between-lines of the song!
Oh God, it was really a nightmare! Anyway, all these continued and I survived.
But one thing, I was very comfortable and Mitra also could not find any fault with me, that was my successful homework and easy show on “theory” portion of the music.
You see, at the age 25, if an “Engineering Graduate” attempted what a 5 year old can do, it must be easy, isn’t it!
The "Theory" lessons remained my USP !
I could use that for my survival and progress! Very fast progress indeed!