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The Western Music Education Association (WMEA) made its first foray into South India with a full day conference and conducting workshop in Kochi, Kerala, and an informational meeting in Chennai. Both events are part of WMEA’s organisational strategy to establish an all-India presence, reaching out to Western music teachers in all corners of the country.

An enthusiastic 80 people attended the Kochi event, some coming from a five-hour drive from the capital, Thiruvanathapuram, and some flying in from Chennai. Participants came from all areas of music teaching and learning – theory, keyboards, voice, choral, and guitar, and sessions were geared for music teachers from any background and with any interest. The morning session featured highly informative talks such as functional harmony led by WMEA Vice President Ritesh Khokhar, music pedagogy for general classroom music teaching led by Natalie Sarrazin, Executive Director, and a review of Western Music and Indian Music led by Alphons Joseph, head of Crossroads. The afternoon session featured a Choral Conducting workshop by Lindsay Ross Boyd, who specialises in conducting workshops, training, and pedagogy. Lindsay instructed the group in both basic conducting techniques, and more advanced work in choral conducting that helps bring out the emotions and nuances in choral performance. Several brave participants came forward to practice their conducting in front of the audience.

The Kochi conference was held in collaboration with Crossroads School of Music, directed by Alphons Joseph. Alphons is a music director and playback singer in the Malayalam film industry, as well as leading Crossroads School. Alphons is WMEA’s South Indian Liaison, and is helping to establish the organisation in Kerala and across the south. He joined WMEA and helped plan this conference because he believes in WMEA’s mission of helping music educators, and believes in the great benefits of the organisation to offer resources, support, and training. Music teachers in Kochi seemed to agree, and began to strategies how to move the organisation forward.

Lindsay Boyd helps teach conducting technique

The Chennai event was an informational meeting, attended by over 50 people. It was organised by Sachin Das, WMEA board member and manager of Musée Musical, one of India’s oldest music store. The informational meeting was to introduce WMEA to teachers in the area, and detail its benefits. The talk featured a general overview of WMEA and its affiliation with NAfME, the National Association for Music Education in the US. WMEA became the first non-US federated affiliate with NAfME in 2016, and helps WMEA offer a huge range of benefits to its members. This overview was followed by an excellent session by Ritesh Khokhar on how to manage a music academy. Most of the participants in the room either worked for, or owned music schools, and the talk was very well received.

Sachin Das, centre back standing at the Chennai Informational Meeting

WMEA began in Delhi in 2014 with a small group of dedicated music teachers and a vision. The goal is to provide a safe, non-competitive and supportive environment for music teachers to share information, network, and have access to materials and professional development. These efforts mark the beginning of a larger goal of bringing music education into compliance with other subjects in terms of curriculum and pedagogy and establishing excellent music education for all students in India!