The Struggle to the Competition

August 4, 2015 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

The Struggle to the Competition

I’m thankful to four people: my teacher, my mother, my father and my grandmother for the third place that I won in the All India Junior Level Kawai Piano Competition.

Without my teacher, I couldn’t do any thing. He slowly, patiently, indefatigably taught me all the pieces I needed to play. Mr. Srikanth Gnanasekaran really helped me while I failed, lifted me when I stumbled, and pushed me high when I was low. Another teacher, however, taught one of the songs to me. In Dubai, where I used to live, a wonderful teacher named Ms. Valentina taught me the song, Menuet.  Most of you would not have heard it. It was composed by Johann Mattheson and it’s included in Trinity Grade 2, 2012-2014 book. Mr. Srikanth tirelessly made sure I played the pieces to a certain level before heading for the competition in Bengaluru.

My mother sat with me everyday, enduring even the unendurable pieces and making sure I got better. She politely listened to my pieces and made sure she properly expressed where I had gone wrong. She encouraged me to go on and made sure my playing was audible. Without her I would have stopped preparing properly for the competition.

My father sat with me whenever he got the chance. He has an unquenchable thirst for music and could not stop listening to it. He would make me play, correct my mistakes, help me learn new pieces, and encourage me to go on. My father used to play the mridangam (a percussion instrument used in Carnatic music), so the difference between my mother and my father is that my mother was more fixed on the melody, while my father helped me out with my beat. Without him, my tempo would have been gone long ago.

This is the surprise one. You must be thinking, “How could his grandmother help him get ready for his competition?” You would not believe it, but when everybody else left saying I played badly, my grandmother stood by me, making me practice the piece again and again until I got it right. She would say a very popular saying “Practice makes perfect!” She could not come for the competition in Bengaluru, but listened to the recording that my parents had done. She congratulated me as soon as we arrived here in Chennai. Without her I would not have believed I could do well in the competition.

These four people with their talent, encouragement, and indefatigable thirst for music really helped me to be among the top three in this competition.

When I came to class that day, sir told my parents that there was a competition hosted by Kawai in Bengaluru. My parents immediately said yes. I was incredibly nervous. How would I do in a contest? Would I do well? Would I not do well? I’d never been to one before. The only place I’d performed was my old school’s talent show! I was so frustrated I couldn’t even play properly! So after the class I went and had a long think about it. Should I do it or should I not? This same argument went on until I got my award. Then, the warring parts of myself finally came to an unanimous conclusion. I should have. I definitely should have.

Suhrit Venkatvardhan (Age: 10 years)

Piano Student –Academy of Western Music, Chennai.


Motivation to Practice

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July 12, 2015 | WORKSHOPS | 0 Comments

Drums Workshop (24.07.15)


Performance Anxiety

June 3, 2015 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

What is performance anxiety?

For many musicians, it’s a common scenario: you stand backstage about to go on, you may feel your chest pound, your breathing grow shallow, your stomach fluttering, your hands sweaty, sometimes shaking, your shoulder blades hurt. It’s bad enough that you have to experience these unpleasant feelings, but you also worry that they will ruin how your music sounds onstage. You head down, to the center of the stage and can feel the sweat trickling down your neck. Perhaps, if you’re lucky, you might faint (a good exit strategy from the situation).

Anxiety is a normal part of life, and a small amount of anxiety can help kick us into action to do something we have avoided. But stage fright or performance anxiety is the anxiety or fear which may be aroused in an individual by the requirement to perform in front of an audience, whether actually or potentially.

MPA or Music Performance Anxiety

MPA has been divided into two distinct types:

  1. Cognitive anxiety and
  2. Somatic anxiety

Cognitively anxious musicians portray consistent thinking styles about their playing and performing. They might have negative biases in their self-perceptions before and after a performance; “It’s going to be rubbish,” “I’m a terrible musician,” They can show heightened concerns about the consequences of performances; “Everyone heard that note,” “I am disappointing the audience”.

Somatic anxiety refers to the physical symptoms that are experienced during an anxiety provoking event — tremors, dry mouth, dizziness, all caused through over arousal of the sympathetic nervous system.

Source of MPA

For those who’ve struggled with it, accept MPA as an inevitable part of performing.  For them it is a “conditioned fear” that was acquired in childhood, when they were made to perform and had a bad experience. The brain learns quickly to avoid danger and once it decides that audiences are scary, it’s not about to change its mind. Fear associations are stored in a small organ in the brain called the amygdala, and there they remain for the rest of our lives.

There are many contrasting reasons for why a musician feels anxiety when taking the stage. Psychologist Glenn Wilson has divided the sources of musical performance anxiety into three categories: the taskthe situation, and the person. (Klickstein, 2009; Lehmann, Sloboda & Woody, 2007, ch. 8; Wilson & Roland, 2002; Valentine, 2002).

  1. The task. When musicians experience anxiety because they believe they’re physically incapable of playing or singing their music, then the task is the source.
  2. The situation. When performance conditions cause stress, including the presence or absence of co-performers, the makeup of the audience, and any consequences of performance (e.g., an audition or competition).
  3.  The person. When a musician’s own personality or thought processes – their attitudes, beliefs, and thought patterns related to performance is the root of all problems.

How to deal with performance anxiety

Many have advised musicians that the key to a successful performance is over-preparation. “Practice your music so much that even your worst rendition still sounds pretty good, your body will deliver it onstage without thinking”. According to this view, you can have utmost confidence and no reason to worry going into a performance.

When well-intentioned performers pass on their advice of “what worked for me,” the result can be a diagnostic mismatch: one person’s prescribed treatment does not fit the underlying cause of another person’s anxiety. For example, the common recommendation of doing extra practice performances in the recital hall (source = the situation) will not help if your anxiety really comes from attempting music that is just too difficult for you (source = the task). No amount of breathing exercises or relaxation techniques will erase symptoms that have been brought on by irrational and/or negative thoughts and perfectionism(source = the person).

More common are recommended cure-alls, ranging from the silly (“imagine your audience in their underwear”) to the simplistic (“practice, practice, practice”). This reflects the fatalist attitude mentioned above, in which musicians accept anxiety as a fact and resign to battling symptoms without considering what’s causing them.

Performance means different things to different musicians. It seems that many musicians adopt an anxiety-related performance perspective early in their development (Thomas & Nettelbeck, 2013). A preventative approach starts with identifying the source.

A recent study showed that how you think about your musical instrument can affect your susceptibility to anxiety (Simoens & Tervaniemi, 2013). These researchers identified several attitudes that musicians may hold. They can feel united or “as one” with the instrument, they can see it as something to hide behind, or they can think of it as an obstacle to overcome between themselves and an audience. As might be expected, the research revealed that those with a united mindset had the lowest scores of performance anxiety. They also scored favorably in other measures of well-being, including confidence and the experience of positive feelings or boost during performance. The researchers suggest that those who feel united with their instruments can more freely express themselves and be less vulnerable to the opinions of others.

As musicians, the way we think about performance results from our past experiences and the musical cultures in which we’ve developed. It can be a difficult and unpleasant exercise to try to identify the attitudes and thought processes in ourselves that undermine our performance success. But the wealth of past research on performance anxiety has indicated that the most damaging thoughts are those that are irrational and negative “I am going to forget the words” “I’ll never do well” “I’m going to miss that note” “I never get this right”. What needs to happen, however, is to acknowledge these negative thoughts, expose them for their faulty quality, and, most importantly, replace them with realistic and task-centered thoughts (see Hoffman & Hanrahan, 2012).

Effectively changing your own thinking or cognitive restructuring, as psychologists call it does not happen without some work. Fortunately, the work that is required is, in a way, familiar to musicians, practice. If you’ve determined that the source of your performance anxiety is your own inner dialogue, then you can practice new thought patterns. Irrational and negative thinking will fade as you deliberately rehearse thoughts that are realistic and that focus on the true nature of music making.

  1. Don’t expect to eradicate your fear altogether. Instead, learn to live with it.
  2. De-sensitise yourself. This means exposing yourself to the thing you’re afraid of, like an audience, repeatedly, but in small doses that you can handle.
  3. Videotape yourself before your performance.  Do a dress rehearsal on tape. Some of your performance anxiety is well-founded – you have no clue how you’re coming across, and that is inherently unsettling.
  4. Activate your energy. Do something that makes you feel “up” and excited. Call a friend who makes you laugh. Smile at people in the audience. Jump up and down backstage to happy music.
  5. Remember that your job as a performer is to give, not to be perfect. You are there to share something of value with your audience.

References

Hoffman, S. L., & Hanrahan, S. J. (2012). Mental skills for musicians: Managing music performance anxiety and enhancing performance. Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology, 1(1), 17–28.

Klickstein, G. (2009). The Musician’s Way. New York: Oxford University Press.

Lehmann, A. C., Sloboda, J. A., & Woody, R. H. (2007). Psychology for musicians. New York: Oxford University Press.

Simoens, V. L., & Tervaniemi, M. (2013). Musician–instrument relationship as a candidate index for professional well-being in musicians. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 7(2), 171-180.

Thomas, J. P., & Nettelbeck, T. (2013). Performance anxiety in adolescent musicians.Psychology of Music. Published online before print July 31, 2013.

Valentine, E. (2002). The fear of performance. In J. Rink (Ed.), Musical performance: A guide to understanding (pp. 168-182). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Wilson, G. D., & Roland, D. (2002). Performance anxiety. In R. Parncutt & G. E. McPherson (Eds.), The science and psychology of music performance (pp. 47–61). New York: Oxford University Press.

Woody, R. H. (2013, August). Stage Fright: What to Do When the Problem Is You. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/live-in-concert/201308/stage-fright-what-do-when-the-problem-is-you

Woody, R. H. (2012). When Practice, Practice, Practice Isn’t the Answer. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/live-in-concert/201207/when-practice-practice-practice-isn-t-the-answer

Sangita Santosham

M.Phil (Psychology), Associate London College of Music (ALCM)

Vocal Instructor –Academy of Western Music, Chennai.


Baffled By Beats

April 25, 2015 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

Baffled By Beats

I still remember when I was a kid my parents always would play a song or clap aloud to draw my attention towards them. At the sound of music I would pause anything that I would be into and extend complete attention to listen to that I hear. It wasn’t about the lyrics or the tune of what I was listening to, it was ‘that’ magic element of the music that kept the lyrics and tune going – the rhythm. Rhythm was a fascinating concept that kept me engaged as a lad. Anything and everything that would get caught between my fingers I would use them as sticks and bang on a door, utensils, sometimes on my dad’s head even trying to understand the concept of drum beats. As days moved on I discovered that it was a percussive instrument that would create a feel and tempo of the song and is therefore the ‘backbone’ of any band. The drum is a very popular instrument that all cultures have in common! The role of a drum kit is loud and dominant as the lead vocals in most music styles! My passion to learn drums grew stronger and yes did land me as a distinction holder in the 8th Grade percussion exams from the Trinity college of London and eventually my passion became my profession as well. I love being a Drum tutor!

In history, drumming and the use of percussive instruments have had a significant role in people’s lives. Not only do the people who play these instruments enjoy them, but it is said that “there is as much pleasure participating in, as listening to and admiring to it”. The use of drums has been recognized as being able to put people into spiritual trances throughout history. The drum set is a musical instrument with great power and presence that gives the “pulse” or backbone to the music it is incorporated with.

I view drumming as a way to complete the inner self. Drumming is helpful in relieving stress and improving physical and mental well-being. Playing the drums has very positive effects on brain development and coordination. Drumming is also beneficial to hand-eye coordination and improves reflexes and develops muscles. Learning to play the drums gives enough instant gratification to be enjoyable for the beginner student, yet can be challenging and difficult enough to keep even the most seasoned player engaged and interested in learning more.

1. Drumming can help students grow academically; it can improve students’ ability to concentrate and compliment their studies in the arts, math, science, language arts, history & physical fitness.

2. According to scientific research, playing music, and hence drumming and playing percussion, increases the development of various regions of the brain, including the corpus callosum, motor and auditory cortexes.

3. Playing drums and rhythms can be an optimal experience and encourages participants of all ages to achieve flow.

4. Drumming is a healing art and therefore it can give participants of any age a better sense of well-being.

5. Hand drumming (and regular participation in any form of percussion playing) increases the physical stamina of students.

6. Drumming increases body awareness & kinesthetic development; drumming helps students develop graceful coordination and self-control.

7. The process of drumming engages both the linear, rational left brain and the creative (intuitive right brain).

8. Playing rhythms improves listening skills and increases children and teens’ ability to focus for extended periods of time.

9. In general, the increasing of rhythmic skills – and the learning of any musical instrument – increases students’ confidence.

10. Playing rhythmic music helps students to take notice of the rhythms and beauty in nature and their surroundings.

The above stated facts are indeed amazing and I have experienced it myself being a drummer. My role as a drum tutor at the Academy of Western Music (AWM), Chennai is a dream come true thing. The AWM offers a great music learning ambience and experience to its students and opportunities to the faculties here. As a tutor, every session is exciting, and the top notch instruments make the teaching and learning all the more interesting at this music academy.  If you find your child baffled by the beats, Academy of Western Music is the place for him/her to master the art. Enroll him; let him enjoy the experience of the enthralling beauty in beats.

F. Terence Nathan

Drum Instructor –Academy of Western Music, Chennai.

 


Young Musicians Program

April 15, 2015 | WORKSHOPS | 0 Comments

YMP 2015


True Tone

March 1, 2015 | Events | 0 Comments

True Tone (Regular version)


A Music School, Quite Like No Other

February 27, 2015 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

A Music School, Quite Like No Other

Those were the words that I’d had heard and read voluminously about. As I’m an ardent music fan, my curiosity was piqued, to say the least. I ventured towards Santhome, Chennai one sunny morning, armed with little else than my tote, notepad and overflowing eagerness. Did the Academy of Western Music live up to those mental notes I had made? Why don’t we find out!

The vast and beautiful campus of the music school was the perfect sight for sore eyes. With ample car parking space, it’s a welcome boon for visitors as well as students. As I had fixed an appointment with the CEO- Mr. John Sudhakar- I waited in the sizeable lobby for fewer than two minutes before I got whisked away to Mr. Sudhakar’s cabin. Modest and amiable, I was put at ease in no time at all.

The Heritage: The Academy is a little under two years since inception, but going by its evolved and elaborate appearance, it would definitely seem otherwise.  It offers Courses in 10 disciplines- Guitar (the most popular one, I realise), Vocal & Piano (close runners-up), Drums, Keyboard, Violin, Saxophone, Clarinet, Trumpet and Music Theory. The last, where the in-depth structure of music and music notation are taught is the most vital one to strike a chord, I’m told. Lessons for beginners at the Academy are intrinsic and well-etched, where students are handheld to perfection. A music instructor at the Academy takes separate sessions for students at different levels.

Classrooms at the Academy: I am soon led to the classrooms at the Academy which span the First & Second floors. Guitar has an exclusive room where Acoustic & Electric are taught. Vocal & Music Theory has a separate classroom. Piano, Drums & Keyboard have different rooms & Mr. Sudhakar patiently explains the differences between the two to this eager beaver & he rounds off his statement with a pitch-perfect performance! I was truly honored, I must say. The Classrooms have top-notch instruments which are taught by experienced faculty who come with excellent degrees and the one ingredient that is a prerequisite- committed passion towards teaching.

Syllabus & Certification: Students at the Academy can take music examinations conducted by Trinity College London and Rockschool.

Advantage Academy: What clearly impressed me was when I learnt that the student-teacher ratio was as less as 1:5! The personalised instruction from well-experienced music instructors apart, parents can take heart from the fact that the brightly lit classrooms have CCTV installed in each room. Students are also encouraged to participate in SPOT- Student Performance Over Time- which are conducted at regular intervals to build their confidence and equip them for the bigger stage. Cut to the Reading room and Library which housed an eclectic collection of books and magazines from the world of music. Rock, pop, classic- you name the genre, the Academy, in most certainty, will cover it. Over to the Recital Hall- the arena for students to perform; and also where you can lend an ear to known artistes.

Music Retail Store: Students are encouraged to buy instruments that they choose to study. Towards this, the Academy has set up Sterling Music, a music store within the campus (nirvana to music enthusiasts, I tell you!) with a colossal line-up of Musical Instruments and Accessories ranging from Yamaha, Casio and Roland to Korg, Ashton and Havana; and everything else in between.

After a morning well spent, I take leave and bemusedly mull over the newfangled Academy and its well-entrenched position in the south of India!

A Music School, Quite Like No Other

Those were the words that I’d had heard and read voluminously about. As I’m an ardent music fan, my curiosity was piqued, to say the least. I ventured towards Santhome, Chennai one sunny morning, armed with little else than my tote, notepad and overflowing eagerness. Did the Academy of Western Music live up to those mental notes I had made? Why don’t we find out!

The vast and beautiful campus of the music school was the perfect sight for sore eyes. With ample car parking space, it’s a welcome boon for visitors as well as students. As I had fixed an appointment with the CEO- Mr. John Sudhakar- I waited in the sizeable lobby for fewer than two minutes before I got whisked away to Mr. Sudhakar’s cabin. Modest and amiable, I was put at ease in no time at all.

The Heritage: The Academy is a little under two years since inception, but going by its evolved and elaborate appearance, it would definitely seem otherwise. It offers Courses in 10 disciplines- Guitar (the most popular one, I realise), Vocal & Piano (close runners-up), Drums, Keyboard, Violin, Saxophone, Clarinet, Trumpet and Music Theory. The last, where the in-depth structure of music and music notation are taught is the most vital one to strike a chord, I’m told. Lessons for beginners at the Academy are intrinsic and well-etched, where students are handheld to perfection. A music instructor at the Academy takes separate sessions for students at different levels.

Classrooms at the Academy: I am soon led to the classrooms at the Academy which span the First & Second floors. Guitar has an exclusive room where Acoustic & Electric are taught. Vocal & Music Theory has a separate classroom. Piano, Drums & Keyboard have different rooms & Mr. Sudhakar patiently explains the differences between the two to this eager beaver & he rounds off his statement with a pitch-perfect performance! I was truly honored, I must say. The Classrooms have top-notch instruments which are taught by experienced faculty who come with excellent degrees and the one ingredient that is a pre-requisite- committed passion towards teaching.

Syllabus & Certification: Students at the Academy can take music examinations conducted by Trinity College London and Rockschool.

Advantage Academy: What clearly impressed me was when I learnt that the student-teacher ratio was as less as 1:5! The personalised instruction from well-experienced music instructors apart, parents can take heart from the fact that the brightly lit classrooms have CCTV installed in each room. Students are also encouraged to participate in SPOT- Student Performance Over Time- which are conducted at regular intervals to build their confidence and equip them for the bigger stage. Cut to the Reading room and Library which housed an eclectic collection of books and magazines from the world of music. Rock, pop, classic- you name the genre, the Academy, in most certainty, will cover it. Over to the Recital Hall- the arena for students to perform; and also where you can lend an ear to known artistes.

Music Retail Store: Students are encouraged to buy instruments that they choose to study. Towards this, the Academy has set up Sterling Music, a music store within the campus (nirvana to music enthusiasts, I tell you!) with a colossal line-up of Musical Instruments and Accessories ranging from Yamaha, Casio and Roland to Korg, Ashton and Havana; and everything else in between.

After a morning well spent, I take leave and bemusedly mull over the newfangled Academy and its well-entrenched position in the south of India!

Radhika
Music Lover

 

 


My Love For The Guitar

January 23, 2015 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

My Love For The Guitar

Music is the only universal language that can be understood, accepted, loved and admired irrespective of age, culture or religion. I truly feel that music is genetically programmed in all of us. That could be from humming your favourite tune, singing, or playing a musical instrument to even appreciating simple sounds.

Ever since I can remember, I was always fascinated with the sounds of various musical instruments. As a child I did try to lay my hands onto a keyboard, piano, drums and guitar that I could find at a friends’ or a relatives’ place. The sheer delight and joy that filled me transported me to a different world altogether. Of all the instruments, it was the six strings guitar that really caught my eye. Having listened to several legendary bands and artistes and also seeing videos of their stage performance during my growing years, I was particularly intrigued by the guitarist and his renditions. The seamless movement of his fingers over the strings to an extent such that it seemed as though they were made for each other. My love for the guitar evolved further during my teens when I was introduced to rock music. The complete mastery over the instrument that the guitarist possessed was unimaginable. That was when I decided that I must learn to play guitar.

But that was easier said than done. At home, it was very clear that academics was always the first priority and everything else could wait. That meant that my guitar lessons too would have to wait. For how long? Nobody could tell that. One thing lead to another and academics gave way to career path and that lead to professional commitments. We are living in a competitive world where we always have too many things to do in a limited time frame. But the passion for guitar learning lived on. I was very clear in my mind that come what may, I will fulfil this dream.

My family was also very clear that our daughter would be exposed to learning a musical instrument early on in her life. It was after her sixth birthday that we decided to enrol her into piano classes. That’s when we came across the Academy of Western Music.  I was thoroughly impressed with the Academy. From their architectural layout to the friendly and informative front desk staff, from the classroom designs to their faculty members, every aspect has been thoroughly researched, planned and executed well. Above all, the CEO, Mr. John Sudhakar’s personal intervention, towards guiding us on the course details, taking us on a tour of the academy and helping with the enrolment process to advising on the various types of pianos that we could consider purchasing, was very helpful. These were qualities we had in mind before selecting a music academy for my daughter.

I was hesitant at first but let my confidence get the better of me and popped the question to Mr. John Sudhakar about the possibility of me pursuing guitar classes at the Academy.  Age was a big factor and I certainly did not see myself sitting in the midst of children my daughters’ age and learning to play the guitar. Besides that, a father daughter duo attending music classes was certainly not a common sight. To my surprise, Mr. John Sudhakar put all my anxieties at ease by giving me examples of a few students who despite their age and professional commitments have found time to pursue their passion of learning music. Age is certainly not a deterrent to learn new skills. We have all read or heard about this umpteen number of times. But how many of us put it to practise.

Thus began a new journey in my life to fulfil an incomplete dream. After getting suitably guided by Mr. John Sudhakar on the course, instrument purchase options and enrolment formalities, I began my weekly classes to learn guitar. The experience has been truly overwhelming. Until just 3 months ago, I could barely hold a guitar properly. Now I’m able to play some guitar chords and other musical pieces from the book. I’m still working on guitar lessons for beginners and there is a long way to go but with regular practice I’m confident that I will get only better. The excellent student to faculty ratio has also made this possible. With individual and undivided attention given to each student in the class, the scope for learning and enjoying what you learn only adds to the experience. This would not have been possible without the guidance and encouragement from my instructor, the young and spirited Jonathan.

There have been several occasions when I’m unable to play the music notes correctly. It does get frustrating during such times. But I constantly remind myself that practice will only make me perfect. This is not a race that I need to finish before time. This is process that I need to follow diligently and keep the focus on accuracy rather than speed. Play it again and again until you get it right. It’s also important to set aside time every day, at least 30 minutes, to play the guitar. For a working professional it can be daunting at first but with discipline it’s possible to do so. My work requires me to travel for many days. This means no practise for several days. But I carry my guitar whenever I travel on work. I have purchased a sturdy guitar travel case from Sterling Music and always make it a point to practice in my hotel room when I return from work. It may be for as less as 20 minutes for a day but trust me, it really does make a big difference.

What started out as an unfulfilled dream has not only turned into realty but also has made me strive for greater pursuits. After I successfully complete my acoustic guitar lessons, I plan to progress onto the electric guitar and the drums. My daughter too can play various musical pieces on her piano. I must thank the academy for giving me this wonderful platform.

It’s never too late to pursue your dream of learning to play a musical instrument that you have always cherished and wanted to learn to play. The time is now and there can be no excuses!

Avinash Swamy

Guitar Student –Academy of Western Music, Chennai.

 


Black and White

January 8, 2015 | Events | 0 Comments

event-jan08