Hill kids get Mumbai music call – show & classes for Gandhi ashram students

The Telegraph

Kalimpong, Nov. 26: A 30-member orchestra of Gandhi Ashram here will go on a 10-day training-cum-performance tour of Mumbai in January, giving a boost to the institution’s reputation as a nursery of western classical music.

“The children will go to Mumbai at the invitation of Chorus, the musical group of the city’s famous St Xavier’s College. They will undergo training for three-four days at the college under expert guidance. During the stay, the students will perform at different schools and other institutions,” said principal of the Ashram Father Jayantilal Patel.

This will be the second visit to the entertainment capital of the country for the Ashram students in six months.

The school’s student musicians had earlier participated in a contest called “India has got talent”, organised by a television channel, and came back with the “most spotless performance” award. The contest was won by Shillong Chamber Choir, which was invited to perform at the state dinner hosted by President Pratibha Patil for her US counterpart Barrack Obama in New Delhi earlier this month.

The principal said the students would get to learn a lot during the Mumbai tour. “Yes, it will be a good exposure tour for our students. Each student will be staying with different families in Mumbai and they will assemble at St Xavier’s for training and practice,” said Father Patel.

The Ashram, run by Jesuits, is for underprivileged children and music is an integral part of the school curriculum. The 245 students of the school — all of whom are day-scholars — are given lessons in violin, cello and viola. The Ashram has classes from UKG to Class VIII. Apart from regular studies, the students have to learn any of the three instruments.

“The students are taught music twice a week on normal days, and for extended period prior to performances,” said the principal. Even though the students learn only western classical music, the orchestra performs popular Bollywood and Nepali numbers also during stage shows.

Founded by late Jesuit priest Father Ed McGuire in 1994, the Ashram has produced talents like Kushmita Biswakarma, who went on to study at the famous Richard Strauss Conservatory in Munich, and teenage sensation Prayash Biswakarma. Both the Biswakarmas play violin.

In fact, two of the Ashram’s present students returned from Germany yesterday after completing a three-week training. “Apart from training, Vikram and Subham also performed in different European countries,” said Father Patel.

The duo are among 38 boarders at the Ashram and are only taught music. They are all students of Class IX or above and go to different schools in town for regular studies.


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