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Young Talent on Global Stage

As the students of the NCPA Special Music Training Programme return from their first concert on foreign shores, Marat Bisengaliev talks to us about the future of the programme. Interviewed by Cynthia Lewis

The year 2018 is an important one for the NCPA Special Music Training Programme. The programme was started in 2012 to bring the Russian conservatoire method to Mumbai. Students as young as five years old were inducted into the holistic programme, in which they received training from members of the Symphony Orchestra of India (SOI). This March, the students played their first international concert in Abu Dhabi, an eye-opening experience for them. Marat Bisengaliev tells us more.


ON Stage: What were your expectations from the programme when it first began?

Marat Bisengaliev: We just decided to apply the best school system that exists around the world, a system that guarantees results. The invitations for the Abu Dhabi concert came from the recordings – from people hearing the results of our teaching. And, of course, there is a concert in April [at the NCPA] for everyone to hear. All I’m doing is applying the know-how, which existed for hundreds of years at the Russian schools, in America, in England, in Belgium and Japan. But basically it’s about one-on-one really rigorous training and not just in the primary instrument but other musical subjects including harmony, music theory and, of course, the orchestra.

Our school is, more than other schools, aimed at the culture of playing in the orchestra, so I do try to establish the subject as one of the main subjects in
the school.


OS: What can you tell us about the international concert?

MB: The concert on 8th March in Abu Dhabi was purely focussed on the children playing. Also, this was the first outing abroad for the orchestra. All the parents were excited; all the parents were accompanying them.


OS: How did you prepare for the performance?

MB: We did a couple of Indian pieces, and a few others were also especially arranged for them. This is not a youth orchestra, don’t forget, this is a kids’ orchestra. So even five-year-olds are playing, right up to the age of 14. I’m sure once we go past the seven-year mark, which will be next year, and we’ll see the graduates of Stage 7, we will see how many of them go forward professionally. Those who go professional will go on for another four years to complete an 11-year course. We’re already planning to make four of our students participate in the next season of the SOI. That’s a very big moment for the SOI and for the school. This is sort of the aim of the school. We will exhibit students who are already capable of playing in a professional orchestra.


OS: What do these concerts mean for their careers?

MB: Not everyone will probably go professional, but at least we are aiming at it. And little by little, the number of students who go professional will increase. But even now I can see some really determined kids among the students who already know that they want to be professionals. And even while [I’m] talking to parents, they’re very supportive of their children’s career choice. Of course, this is something very new because in India Western classical music wasn’t really a career choice. The creation of the SOI 11 years ago has made it a reality and Western classical music is expanding. These concerts will hold the doors open for them to create something special, not just in Mumbai but in India.    

The students of the NCPA Special Music Training Programme will perform with the SOI Chamber Orchestra on 11th April at the Tata Theatre.

This piece was originally published by the National Centre for the Performing Arts, Mumbai, in the April 2018 issue of ON Stage – their monthly arts magazine.