CHANGING THE LANDSCAPE of CHORAL MUSIC in INDIA

By NEETA HELMS

Founder/President, Classical Movements

Growing up in India, there was a minuscule population of people who loved Western classical music — an even tinier one that could read it, much less actually studied it.

When I moved to America, I started a career in the concert touring business, a career where I’m fortunate enough to help the world’s greatest musicians perform their art all over the world.

Yet, while working in some 145 countries across seven continents, during Classical Movements’ 25 years of business, India has remained a rare musical destination.

Of course, India has a long history and rich tradition of its own classical music and dance (not to mention the enormous Bollywood industry), and my theory is that Western art music didn’t need to fill a void, since none really existed, as is the case in so many other countries.

More recently, though, perhaps due to increased globalization and/or the larger number of Indians studying abroad, I’ve come to realize that India’s interest in Western classical music is growing. Steadily.

In fact, the Shillong Chamber Choir, a Western-style singing group founded only in 2010, won top prize on the popular television competition India’s Got Talent.

Right now, there are many voice, piano, violin and guitar students in a growing number of Western music schools across the country, representing all communities, ethnicities and economic situations.

But for those students bereft of basics like food, clothing and shelter, a musical instrument is impossible to purchase and maintain.

The human voice, however, comes free of charge. (And for Classical Movements’ sake, it’s pretty easy to transport, too.) Loved by young and old, around the globe, singing is an especially universal ability.

Nevertheless, despite that ever-increasing number of music schools for children, in India today, there is no university course that teaches choral singing, or even a program to teach teachers how to teach choral music.

Still, the demand abides.

When I visited my homeland in December of 2015 (and again just last month), I was struck by how many Indian singers were wont for vocal training, desperately seeking skilled teachers to come and teach and conduct.

On January 14, 2016, Classical Movements made a big announcement, calling for choral luminaries to go on sabbatical in India; more than 30 responded to us, many of them distinguished CM clients.

Hence, to meet such great demand, Classical Movements has officially launched the India Choral Fellowship (ICF), featuring the award-winning singer, conductor and educator Kevin Fox as its inaugural recipient.

India will always hold a dear place in my heart. It is my sincere hope, then, that with Classical Movements’ ICF, I can help inspire future Indian musicians who, far from abandoning the old ways, blend in with the ancient traditions that make my mother country so unique, forging a new horizon for classical music in India.