In concert at Taj Coromandel, Chennai in December 2019


“Anything is possible,” was going through my mind as I was listening to young musicians go through auditions in Chennai last December. They had applied to be part of the new Chennai Youth Sinfonietta, that soon aims to be the heart of classical music in Tamil Nadu. Western classical music might not be very widespread in South India, but there is certainly no lack of keen youngsters that want to be part of something bigger.

Rehearsing with the Fukushima Youth Sinfonietta, Fukushima, March 2014 | Photo by Miko Tanaka

This was my second visit to Chennai in a few months. I had recently been introduced to Musée Musical, a musical establishment with more than 175 years of history that has shaped the musical world in their city. “My dream is to have a youth orchestra that makes our city shine,” were the words of Sachin Das who is looking after the Musée Musical Foundation, that aims to promote music in the region. I, on the other hand, have helped build youth orchestras in Japan, Mexico, Ghana as well as Kolkata, India and would like to be part of the process assisting in the creation of a youth orchestra in the city of Chennai, which will be open to players of all levels, and all backgrounds, and will be an empowerment opportunity for those involved. Music can touch lives, and can change the world, for the better. This is the motto that follows me throughout life, and the force behind the musical charity Keys of Change that I started in 2011. Aside from all the youth orchestras around the world I have been helping with Keys of Change, I have travelled to some of the darkest part of the planet, from the Amazon, to Siberia, to play music for people living in extraordinary circumstances.

Peruvian Amazon, December 2011 | Photo by Eloise Campbell

I also had a chance to play two recitals, one at the Taj Coromandel, which was an event organised by Musée Musical by invitation only) and one at the Musée Musical store, which was open to public, mainly music students and their families. This was an opportunity to share the future plans for establishing the Chennai Youth Sinfonietta, and the overall vision of the collaboration between Musée Musical and Keys of Change. If Western classical music is not widespread in Chennai, I could not sense this from these recitals. I met two very different audiences, that were thirsty for music, and enthusiastic to be listening to it.

Playing for slum community in Freetown, Sierra Leone, April 2012 | Photo by Tariq Zaidi

There are countless ingredients needed in putting an orchestra together. But the musical explosion is already taking place in Chennai. I will be back soon, together with music teachers and world renowned musicians, to continue this fascinating journey. Only too often teenagers protest that nobody understands them, and quite often they are right. More than anything, the Chennai Youth Sinfonietta will be an invitation for young people of varied backgrounds to speak out with music, and share with the world their own thoughts and ideas.

Kindregarden in Minamisom, Fukushima, March 2015 | Photo by Miko Tanaka