SPK Academy hopes you all enjoyed a wonderful holiday and are set for a New Year filled with music! To make the most of what the Academy’s offerings be sure and check our Learning Sessions page often as we plan to update it regularly throughout the coming year. The Academy’s New Year got off to a great start over MLK day weekend, hosting the first shibir of 2015 in Phoenix. As always, students traveled from every corner of the United States and Canada to attend.
The vibration was great, and it certainly looked like nobody left Phoenix disappointed. Even the unique challenges faced by the first time students couldn't keep the smiles off their faces as they worked on the lovely and difficult morning Raag Alhaiya Bilawal. The advanced groups worked on two perpetual favorites, Raags Des and Sham Kalyan respectively. Both raags are very demanding on both the hand and mind of the sitar player. Work on Sham Kalyan was particularly fast and furious, and the senior group automatically divided into those who benefited most from listening and those able to pick-up and play at a truly ferocious pace.
Indeed, the musical challenges were greater than ever, and with was good to see the growing maturity of students who knew, without being told, to try and tackle only those things Ustadji meant for them at their present level. This is perhaps the definition of musical self-knowledge. Ustadji drew on a seemingly endless supply of energy, as he moved seamlessly between raags and individual and group lessons. When the sitars were finally put down he was seldom finished with the lesson however, carrying on with group rhythm work.
Ustadji also took time to answer questions, the floor (literally) opened for students to ask anything musical they might have on their mind. One final highlight was the impromtu listening sessions that included Pandit Jagdish Prasad, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Kishori Amonkar Ji and Prabha Atre Ji. Listening to these gifted artists with Ustadji, it felt like you were given an extra set of ears!
The musical challenges were such that discouragement could have easily set in. Like one student admitted, “…I wouldn't call my first time at a shibir a magical experience… more like intimidating. It’s work! You are here to work and learn.” Still, Ustadji’s kind patience, and generous doses of mutual support between the students got everyone through with flying colors. Of course underlying the sargam and taans in teen and ektaal filling every corner of the Academy, more mundane concerns were always there. For example, finding a chance to use the rare open bathroom became a matter of careful calculation mixed with a good deal of luck!
Badminton breaks in the lovely Arizona sun were welcome relief from the stress, and delicious, home-cooked Indian cuisine ably fueled the musical fire!
The Academy would like to thank everyone who attended, and express it’s sincere gratitude for the increasing willingness of all the students to help with all the tasks necessary that made this shibir a success. We hope to see you all again for our exciting Spring 2015 events - the Phoenix riyaz session and the Boston shibir!