The Class of ’24

The young graduates of the SOI Music Academy gear up for their annual concert, along with a special performance.

The tepid April breeze heralds the approaching summer break and respite from textbooks. But at the NCPA, it is the harbinger of the annual concert of the SOI Music Academy, where bright young graduates take the stage.

Under the direction of SOI Music Director Marat Bisengaliev and rigorous training by the teachers at the academy, students will come together to showcase the fruits of their labour. The concert will feature soloists of the academy with the SOI Chamber Orchestra and the happy addition of the SOI Music Academy chorus and the percussion ensemble this year. “I am very happy with the results—especially the percussion classes—which will surely reflect in the concert this year,” says Bisengaliev.

This year, three students—Anwita Bhandari, Dhaina Rajpal and Tarini Kheruka—will graduate from the seven-year course, and one—Maira Noor Singh—from the 11-year course. Please refer to the table on the following page for a detailed list.

The concert at the majestic Jamshed Bhabha Theatre promises to be a memorable one. The programme for children steps away from the standard repertoire and includes popular songs, film music and special pieces that need a different kind of orchestration. An endearing and significant musical exchange is awaited as the students will perform these compositions with the SOI Chamber Orchestra. The orchestra is comprised of their teachers.

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s ‘Dance of the Buffoons’ from the opera The Snow Maiden, Alec Rowley’s Miniature Concerto, Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21 and Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto Op. 16 are some of the works being performed at the concert.

Started in 2012 as the NCPA Special Music Training Programme, the academy has been imparting conservatoire-level musical education, which was previously unheard of in the country. The holistic curriculum allows one-on-one training in a primary instrument, as well as second-study piano lessons, music history, music theory, group singing through the Solfeggio method, orchestral playing, chamber music and choir. The teachers of the academy, all professional musicians trained across Europe, are all full-time members of the Symphony Orchestra of India. They work closely with the students over a sustained period to impart sound knowledge of the musical tradition as well as the instrument they choose to learn. From lessons that go beyond the classroom to encouraging and preparing them to not only participate but excel in international music competitions is a hallmark of the commitment of the teachers. Expectedly, with every graduating class, the institution has produced skilled and complete musicians, ready to enter the world of performance.

“Twelve years is a long time, and yet, it is only last year that we had our first graduates from the 11-year course. They are now successfully pursuing further studies overseas. I am very proud of what the academy has achieved so far in India. We are definitely headed in the right direction,” Bisengaliev tells us. He elaborates, “The objective is to foster a warm and favourable culture to build professional players. We all look forward to getting our graduates back to the NCPA to help us grow a new generation of musicians who will take the tradition forward.”

Over the years, the students have made their mark in concerts at the NCPA, an international and several domestic tours and at prestigious global competitions. Last year, the SOI Academy Orchestra also garnered generous praise from renowned conductor Maestro Zubin Mehta upon his visit.

This April, the students will also give a special performance at the Museum of Solutions (MuSo), a unique experimental museum for children inaugurated last year in Mumbai. With workshops, exhibitions, performances and screenings, MuSo seeks to challenge outdated modes of instruction and replace them with a childled, curiosity-driven approach. Their programming strives for inclusivity and sustainability in which children are at the centre—a defining attribute of the SOI Music Academy as well.

The upcoming concert is bound to create a collective space for students, where they can feel inspired by their peers and the music. Collaborations like these enable new talents to be recognised and friendships to be forged. The choir will perform pieces including Air by Bach, Tchaikovsky’s ‘Once Upon a Dream’ from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty and Duke Ellington’s ‘It Don’t Mean a Thing’, while the percussion ensemble will feature Waltz Joke by Shostakovich, Caccini’s ‘Ave Maria’, Hedwig’s Theme by Williams, ‘Popcorn’ by Hot Butter and other exciting compositions.

Not all students who take up the performing arts turn it into professional careers or transition into artistes. All of them, though, become the audiences of tomorrow. They will be the decision makers, writers and parents equipped with the discipline and sensitivity of a musical education. At the NCPA, the school of music is a delicate wheel of time that not only nurtures artistes but art itself.

By Aishwarya Bodke. This piece was originally published by the National Centre for the Performing Arts, Mumbai, in the April 2024 issue of ON Stage – their monthly arts magazine.