Cyrus Guzder, Bridget Carvalho, Zarir Baliwalla, Anthony Gomes (Furtados Music), Zinnia Khajotia, Michelle Athaide, Roshun Birdy, Ernavaz Bharucha, Shireen Isal, Blossom Mendoncas © Vasant Doshi Photography

The YMOYs in Lockdown

The Olga & Jules Craen Foundation is compelled but disappointed to announce that selection of its Young Musician of the Year for 2022 (YMOY – 2022) has been cancelled due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. It would not be appropriate to have the International Panelists of the three UK Music Boards virtually select a musician whose future career is being developed. The Foundation is hopeful of being able to continue the award as in previous years and shall make its next announcement in May 2022.

Meanwhile… it is delighted to announce that Marialena Fernandes – one of Olga’s most renown pupils, both in India and Internationally – has joined its Committee which will benefit greatly from her vast experience as a teacher and a performer!

THE YMOYs IN LOCKDOWN

To be relevant and keep the Young Musician of the Year (YMOY) award prominent despite two years’ of being unable to conduct live auditions, the OJCF asked its past YMOYs to answer a few questions notably, how they had kept their music practice going during the numerous lockdowns:

“Being an award winner and talented musician, how have the past 18 months of the Covid crisis impacted you in general? How have you made use of the lockdown/s as a musician?”

YMOY 2013 – TANAY JOSHI, PIANIST

I am presently in London and have returned to (re)learning some Baroque music – Scarlatti, Bach, etc. I also refreshed my memory of a few Beethoven sonatas.

 Realising that the performance aspect of music would be on hold for some time, I took to using this time to learn things that I had wanted to do for a while but never got the time for (chiefly – cooking, reading and learning some basic Spanish). As I’m working in the FinTech sector, I had the luxury of working from home throughout the pandemic. I think continuing work helped keep my mind relatively sharp and although gradually zoom-fatigue kicked in, it was manageable. I had the time and freedom to pursue music in the evenings and weekends, so work and music helped complement each other rather than conflict.

 I spent a lot of time listening to new music from different parts of the world, particularly music from Eastern Europe, Spain and Japan. I also have an 88-key, semi-weighted keyboard and while not the best, it was certainly very useful during the pandemic.

I spent a lot of time practicing on it and not losing my finger dexterity too much. I also spent time programming/recording some experimental pieces and learnt more about vintage digital instruments and their emulations (like Moog, Rhodes, etc).

YMOY 2014 – MEAGAN ALPHONSO PANDIAN,  PIANIST

Meagan was selected The Young Musician of the Year 2014, by the Olga and Jules Craen Foundation (OJCF). As part of the award, she attended the l’Académie Internationale d’Eté de Nice, France, and returned to perform at various venues across India as part of her tour of duty as the incumbent YMOY.

Apart from the piano, Meagan also plays the violin and harp. She has taught at the various schools and music foundations and has accompanied students from the School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance at their exams in Mumbai. As a violinist, she has performed with the Bombay Chamber Orchestra, and the Indian National Youth Orchestra in association with the Canadian National Youth Orchestra.

Enchanted with the harp when at the music academy in Nice, Meagan started online lessons and has successfully completed her ATCL exams for the harp. Meagan is the first Indian to play the pedal harp professionally and has performed with the Bohuslav Martinû Philharmonic from the Czech Republic, at the National Centre for the Performing Arts, and in the major cities of India, Sri Lanka, Dubai, Singapore and Bangladesh. She has collaborated with maestro A.R.Rahman, Pritam, Arijit Singh, Vijay TV, Zee Yuva and MTV Unplugged.

She founded the Harp India School, currently the only harp school in the country. During the Covid shutdown Meagan says, “I continued to practice the harp and the piano, exploring music of various genres apart from classical music; and I continued to teach my students online”.

YMOY 2015 – SHIRISH MALHOTRA, FLAUTIST

(Shirish is also an accomplished saxophonist and guitarist.)

I am currently in London playing a jazz gig in a pub. Music I’m learning currently are the Andersen Etudes, Bozza Etudes, Desenclos’ Prelude Cadence et Finale and Cyril Scott’s Flute Sonata; as well as a lot of jazz, some music for other instruments, transcriptions for guitar and Music Box, and my own compositions.

But I feel like I’ve learned what I wanted to about jazz. So am focusing more on writing and composing now. I also teach arrangement and orchestration at Whistling Woods School in Mumbai and of course play frequently with  the Symphony Orchestra of India at the National Centre for the Performing Arts, Mumbai.

YMOY 2016 – APURVA DEVARAJAN, PIANIST

After completing her tenure as Young Musician of the Year in 2016, Apurva Devarajan Duta moved to Paris to gain her professional diploma in piano performance. Following her studies in Paris, Apurva decided to channel her talents in the field of entrepreneurship and technology, while continuing to play the piano and perform in her free time. She graduated with a Masters degree from Brown University before she moved to Austin, Texas in 2019.

When asked about how the YMOY award moulded her career, she says, “The YMOY award helped me tremendously in pushing my artistic boundaries and gaining credibility in the field of music, both nationally and globally. An interesting fact… I won the title of YMOY on my third attempt. Time and again, playing the piano has taught me that perseverance, self-discipline, and attention to detail go a long way. My teacher, Blossom Mendonca, played a key role in getting me to that level. Blossom’s wisdom, her artistic mastery, and her professionalism make her an excellent teacher, a mentor and a bonafide inspiration.”

Presently, Apurva performs in her free time especially in Aspen, Colorado and Texas. She is currently working on Chopin’s Ballade No. 2 in F Major.

YMOY 2017 – SUBIN SEBASTIAN, COUNTER-TENOR

I am presently in Bombay and have established a private teaching practice, also working with two music foundations.

While in lockdown, I earned a Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music, London and presented a series of 5 talks on Baroque Music for the Giving Voice Society’s online masterclass,

I wrote a dissertation on ‘What is a Countertenor‘ for the Serenade Magazine, participated in an online recital and performed Beethoven’s “An Die Ferne Geliebte“ with Pianist Nadine Crasto. I also curated an online recital with Gina Lobo for Amplétude – a music programme celebrating the works of Beethoven. We’re curating a new project celebrating the life and works of Mozart which will be published later this year. Furthermore, Nadine Crasto and I presented a lecture recital for Ashoka University’s Baithak Series early this year and performed for the Young Talent Concert.

In addition to the usual baroque repertoire that counter-tenors have to learn, I found a lot of comfort studying lieder during the lockdown. The highlight has to be Alban Berg’s “Sieben Frühe Lieder”. While I haven’t quite finished the cycle, I had the opportunity to perform the first movement.  Messiaen’s “Trois Melodie” was another fascinating work I had the opportunity to learn.

YMOY 2018 – KABIR DABHOLKAR, GUITARIST

I am presently in Haifa, Israel doing research at Technion. I came here to work on my Master’s thesis towards a science degree at IISER Pune, and decided to continue working here towards a PhD. My research applies ideas from machine learning and physics to try to understand how our brains work.

During the pandemic, I was initially in Bengaluru with my parents and then shifted to Israel in December 2020 for my research. Admittedly, my focus has shifted away from the guitar and towards my research during this time. I am in touch with the instrument, but not with the intensity I need to develop and maintain a repertoire for performance.

Some of the music I have been working on (and off) during the pandemic are:

Bagatelle No. 3 – William Walton

Grande Overture – Mauro Giuliani

Etudes – Fernando Sor and

Sonata # 4 – Dusan Bogdanovic

YMOY 2019 – ANUVRAT CHOUDHARY, PIANIST

I’m currently at Trinity Laban, London, starting the second year of a Master of Music degree in piano performance.

In general, I’m learning a lot of solo works, piano concerti and accompanying singers and learning chamber repertoire particularly as a part of a piano trio. Some of the big pieces I worked on last year were Schubert’s fantasy in C major, “Wanderer”, Mozart’s piano concerto in D minor, K466 and Janacek’s sonata 1.X.1905. Apart from this I also did vocal accompaniment on some Schubert and Mahler lieder. As far as chamber music is concerned, I was a part of a piano trio and we performed Beethoven’s piano trio in D major, Op.70 no.1.

Covid was, of course, unexpected but given that I was still a student, it gave me a chance to practise by myself without being bogged down by any outside distractions, quite literally.

The Con Brio 2020 Piano Competition was held online and kept me occupied through the summer. For the competition, given that it was a completely Beethoven-themed year, I played various movements from sonatas Op10 no1 and Op57; in addition to the compulsory works by Vineet Pannikar and Beethoven’s sonata Op79. (Anuvrat placed in the Top 3!)

I was able to commence my studies at Trinity Laban from September 2020. Whilst at Trinity, despite the restrictions, I did manage to have a few performances, take part in competitions and learn and perform not only solo repertoire, but  also piano trio, piano voice duets with multiple singers, and a piano concerto (even though it was with a second piano. It will be a good memory for me and a good start towards building my concerto repertoire).

There were also a good number of masterclasses with many pianists whom I admire such as Pascal Rogé. The Covid restrictions have eased in London and I have multiple concerts and competitions lined up for the rest of the year, which I am extremely looking forward to. This year, some of the large-scale works I will be/am learning are Beethoven’s sonata in C minor Op.111, and his Piano Concerto no. 3 in C minor, Op. 37.

YMOY 2019 – SAMYUKTHA R., VIOLINIST

I was awarded joint YMOY 2019 by the OJCF. Thereafter, I started violin with Mr. Edward Yen in Singapore and on my return to India continued under Mr. V.S. Narasimhan, founder of Madras String Quartet.

Currently, I am pursuing Western violin music at the International Menuhin Music Academy in Rolle, Switzerland as a student of Mr. Oleg Kaskiv. I have two more years to complete this course. In my first year I performed two solo pieces – Romanza Andaluza and Introduction & Tarantelle, both by Pablo de Sarasate alongwith a camerata accompaniment.

My repertoire is increasing with various concerti as well, such as Vieuxtemps’s Concerto Number 5, Saint-Saëns’s Concerto Number 3, Bruch’s Concerto Number 1, Wieniawski’s Concerto number 2 and several other short pieces by Sarasate, Meditation by Wieniawski and several other Caprices by Paganini.

As for Chamber Music, I have been a part of Rheinhold Glière duets for violin and cello, the Vivaldi Concerto for four violins; Mendelssohn’s Octet in E major, Brahms’s Sextet Number 1, Mozart’s Divertimento in D major arranged for a quartet, Beethoven’s quartet in B flat major and various others.

Several amazing musicians such as Liviu Prunaru, Jean-Jacques Kantorow, Gábor Takács, Renaud Capuçon and many more conducted masterclasses for both solo and chamber programmes. I travelled to Chantilly in France for a performance and also participated in the Pablo Casals festival in Prades, France where I was part of an orchestra comprising 35 musicians from all over the world. We performed with great soloists like Sol Gabetta, Gautier Capuçon, Anastasia Kobekina, Renaud Capuçon and others. It was a wonderful experience. Along with this I feel very happy to say my interview has been published in COTE magazine (cotemagazine_ch). It has been a wonderful year and I hope this continues!

YMOY 2020 – UDIT GUPTA, GUITARIST

I am in Gurgaon, Haryana at present. I was selected YMOY 2020 on my second attempt. I first applied in the Year 2019, then again in 2020. Unfortunately, we were also locked down by Covid in the same year.

Since March 2020, I haven’t given a public performance. Although, as an award recipient, I must always maintain specific playing standards; the prize has really aided me in pushing myself during practice sessions. It has also helped me strengthen my “Resumé,” which will undoubtedly help me in my musical endeavours in the future.

Though my outgoing performance as YMOY 2020 hasn’t taken place, the incoming performance was fantastic! It was my first experience playing at the NCPA. I was not able to travel anywhere due to the Covid situation. Therefore, as the incumbent laureate, I was unable to attend Summer Music School in Europe nor travel to perform at the various schools of music in India. I look forward to completing my tenure as is intended.

During the lockdown, I utilised much of my time in the study of harmony and counterpoint. Apart from performing, I have always had a passion for composition and arranging. I recently finished arranging a piano piece for the guitar by Maurice Ravel which I started working on during the lockdown.

I explored more of 20th century music, analysed works by Beethoven, Schumann and Schubert and studied books on composition and more theory of music.