One week in Calcutta: a Spartan’s story

Jennifer Heemstra, founder of the Pitch Pipe Foundation and Kolkata Classics performed a series of concerts in November 2017 with James Forger, saxophonist and Dean of the College of Music at Michigan State University and Deborah Moriarty, Chair of the Piano Department.

Nov 13, 10:30 am – Our first concert was at South City International School. In addition to their students, students from Sri Sri Academy, Calcutta Emmanuel and Institute of Psychological Research joined us for a fun-filled interactive concert. Deborah and I had a great time teaching the kids how to identify major and minor sounds. We closed songs from the Sound of Music while the kids crowded around the piano and sang their hearts out.


Nov 14, 11 am – We met with the CEO, Principal and Dean of the Heritage School and took a tour of their facility. Michigan State University is always interested in partnerships, research linkages and study abroad programs. I thought a trip to the Heritage School would be a great place to start.

November 14, 7 pm – We had a great audience of at least 250 show up to the Hyatt Regency lawn to cheer us on. I felt welcomed back to the City of Joy after several months of being gone. Luckily the rain subsided long enough for us to complete our program but not long enough for an encore. It began to pour during the last number which brought our night to an immediate end – can’t leave that piano from Braganza & Co. out there under the rain!

Nov 14, 7 pm – Reena Dewan, artist and Vice President of Emami Art, also joined us at the Hyatt Regency Kolkata. We are so fortunate to have her on our team as her live artwork adds a whole new dimension to the evening. This concert she painted to John Williams’ Escapades from the movie Catch Me if You Can and Ryo Noda’s Improvisation for saxophone solo.

PS – That exquisite one shoulder dress was designed by hometown favourite, Kommal Sood!

Nov 15 – For me one of the most meaningful and exciting events happened Nov 15. We had our 6th Hathor Health Fair and Concert at Uttam Mancha in Kalighat. Over 700 women and children from over 13 different NGOs participated. We partnered the Lions Club of Calcutta to offer free eye exams and the Kolkata International Women’s Club provided refreshments. Our volunteers came from the Interact Clubs at South City International School and St. Teresa’s.

After the health services portion was over the concert started. Deborah, Jim and I were the opening act for the real starts of the day, the kids. All in all there were 22 different performances – we had dances, song, a short play, kick boxing demonstration and more…

Backstage with my friends from St Teresa’s Secondary School. They thought I needed to accessorise the Indian way – next thing I knew I was wearing a nose ring!

Photo (L-R): Jennifer Heemstra, Namita Somani, Deborah Moriarty, Julienne Bell, Centre Director, Mr. Arvind Sood, Advisor to Board, Suresh Somani and Jim Forger

Nov 17, 10:10 am – Deborah believes that music can impact the lives and touch the hearts of everyone, including people diagnosed with autism. She co-founded an annual week-long festival, Celebrating the Spectrum, held at the College of Music on the beautiful Michigan State University campus. The festival is designed to give qualified advanced pre-College students on the Autism Spectrum a preview of a life in music. We toured the Amrit Somani Memorial Centre and met with their team to discuss the new Kolkata Autism Centre. I hope something will grow from the seeds we planted.

Nov. 17, 10:30 pm – Jim, Deborah and I had an outstanding time with Jimmy at Friends FM.  It was not only an interesting interview but a rocking evening in the studio!

November 19, 11 am – Deborah taught a Master Class at the Calcutta School of Music. A Master Class is an opportunity for a musician or small ensemble to perform for a highly proficient teacher and receive a mini lesson in front of an audience and peers. The intention is to provide a learning opportunity for performers as well as observers. Five students from CSM participated and at the end Deborah wowed everyone with a performance of Feux d’artifice by Debussy.

Nov 19, 7 pm – Our final performance, Calling Calcutta with Love, was at the Kala Mandir. Thanks to our sponsor Swar Sangam, we were able to welcome music lovers to one of the largest theatres in town. The show started promptly at 7 pm and went off without a hitch. In addition to the Bozza Aria and Jimmy Dorsey’s Oodles of Noodles, Deborah and I performed a selection of Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances. For an encore we were able to play one of my favourites, Vocalise by Rachmaninoff. This 4-minute piece was originally written for voice with piano accompaniment, but we had fun finding creative ways to turn two hands into four.

Nov 20 – No visit to Kolkata is complete without seeing the bedrock of West Bengal… the Jute Industry!

Jim also enjoyed his time in the Mill…

Nov 20 – On our last day Jim and I visited Sonagachi, South Asia’s largest red-light district. We were met by Sahana didi, an employee of Apne Aap and advocate for women and children. She has been coming to Sonagachi for over 20 years and has built trust with the women trapped in prostitution. It was a bitter sweet moment. I look forward to return in January and perform there with two cellists.