Last Sunday I observed multiple workshops for new and returning teachers employed by Music Basti, an organization that runs music programs for underprivileged youth in New Delhi. When classes begin next month, teachers will be divided into groups of three that travel to schools and group homes to give kids an introduction to the world of music. Through music education the staff and volunteers at Music Basti provide an outlet for at-risk youth to express themselves creatively and foster optimism for these students whose lives are filled with instability.
The day was filled with inspiring conversation and activities held by teachers, social workers and counselors from around the city. The workshop that music educator and multi-instrumentalist Ritesh Khokhar ran was particularly inspiring to me. He began by describing several vocal warm-ups, rhythmic exercises, and songs that he had found to be successful. He discussed the benefits of visual aids to instill concepts. He also advised using music to which the kids could relate rather than what the teacher’s generation grew up hearing. He reminded the teachers that although one must be aware of the informational capacity and attention span of young children, they must never underestimate their capabilities.
After the practical portion of Ritesh’s workshop, he spoke about his philosophy on music education and the responsibilities of its practitioners. Firstly, he discussed teaching as performance. When we experience an amazing concert, stand-up comedy set or motivational speech, we are not only stimulated by its content. We are entertained by the energy, enthusiasm and passion of the performer. This is no different in a classroom. An effective teacher can make any subject matter come to life.
Secondly, one must teach how their students learn. On the surface this concept seems simple. However, I have often caught myself neglecting the learning style of a particular student in order to teach something “my way”. We must be prepared and willing to tackle the unique obstacles each student may encounter.
Finally, Khokhar jolted the Music Basti teachers when he told them that their effectiveness as educators could determine whether their students found a passion for music or rejected the art altogether. These young teachers are responsible for making the practice of music enjoyable and rewarding. We all know people who took piano lessons when they were young and quit because of disinterest. Many of them regret giving up on it now, but who could blame them if their teachers were inadequate? As adults, since we now forget so much of the material we learned in elementary school, we may think that that period in our education was less meaningful than the more practical study we did in high school or college. We must remember that the way in which children are introduced to a subject, whether it be mathematics, language or the arts can ignite inspiration immediately or later in life. It is our responsibility as educators to ensure that all students are given the foundational, impassioned and enjoyable preliminary education that they deserve.
If you'd like more information on Music Basti, please check out their website at www.musicbasti.org