Baithak Foundation conducted a pilot study in 2015 to discover the reality of Indian Classical Music in the lives of underprivileged school children. We started teaching music in 2 locations in Pune. One was an after school centre and other was a school. Our experience with students was immensely gratifying and encouraging. Surprisingly children who had never heard classical music would sit hour and a half in one place watching a live concert recording or a documentary and then practice basic swar sadhana.
When asked about which music festivals which happen in Pune, students responded
by saying that they did not know what a music festival was. When asked about do they know Sawai Gandharwa Mahotsav they said that they have never heard of it. They were actually surprised to know that thousands of people from India and abroad attend this festival. They had no clue about Bharat Ratna Pandit Bhimsen Joshi (who lived and died in their own city-Pune) was or who was Pt. Kumar Gandharva. This reality actually knocked us down. We were (and actually are) terribly upset about how these festivals, concerts and gatherings are an affair only for so few in our society. We were actually unhappy about the status and I think that made us move forward.
We were a little apprehensive about how students would really feel about classical music. Many listeners who have never heard classical music before carry certain myths – classical is slow, it is boring, it is too technical etc. However to our surprise we heard children saying, ‘I can hear this music for long, it does not hurt my ears’, ‘oh this is so interesting and so basic’. Kids themselves gave us the reason to believe that children must be provided an exposure to Indian Classical Music.