Deconstructing The True School Of Music

31 May 2013

India's musical education system - without reference to the more traditional training modules available for Indian classical enthusiasts - has been skeletal to say the least. Contemporary minded institutions do exist but the bone framework they make up might still be considered largely arthritic at a more international level, barring something like Chennai’s Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music perhaps. This is probably why the announcement of a state-of-the-art music school, 'The True School of Music,' right in the heart of Mumbai has set tongues wagging. A promise of some much-needed fleshing out of the educational opportunities available in the capital of cool.

But before we take the body apart, here's a look into TSM's structure, its goals and an investigation into its sustainability within an Indian framework.

I. The TSM Team

The school itself is the brainchild of blueFROG co-founder, keyboardist and composer, Ashutosh Phatak who has shacked up with equally influential people within their own fields to make his long-standing dream a reality. Namely, advertising industry veteran Suranjan Das and renowned sound engineer, Nitin Chandy.

Also on board are Zodius as investors, Shridhar Subramaniam (Sony Music India's MD) as strategic advisor and jazz musician David Liebman as well as dynamic duo, Shubha Mudgal and Aneesh Pradhan as mentors, advisors and authors of the various specific programs available. As such, it's definitely shaping up to form a rock-solid team backing the project.

Known members of the faculty include several reputed and skilled individuals such as Reji and DJ Uri who will be members of the production and DJ faculty, which is very likely to pick up a lot of traction with the consistently growing influx of upcoming producers and DJ hopefuls. Music production and sound engineering will also be taught by a faculty from ACM (UK).

II. Offerings, Curriculum and Affiliates

They're calling it a multi-genre school, which will train students up to a professional level in guitar, drums, keyboards, vocals, music production, engineering, disc jockeying and more. Curriculums pertaining to rock and jazz, which is the main focus of the institution, have been created and modified by the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music, official affiliates of TSM. Similarly, the Indian Music Course has been designed by Shubha Mudgal and Aneesh Pradhan. In fact, even the faculty from MSM who will be coming down for 3 months at a time will be able to avail of more eclectic courses in tabla and basuri for example. As far as course durations go, they're looking at anywhere between 9-12 months for a full-time certificate student which can extend up to 2.5 years for those who opt for part-time courses.

The affiliation also guarantees that if any Indian students show tremendous potential, then they may even be given the opportunity to continue their course in Manhattan itself and all credits up until then would be considered entirely valid. Either way, MSM's being onboard might prove to be the most important convincing tool TSM will have to prove its credentials as they attempt to capture the attention of potential students around the country and help stitch the framework together. As Justin DiCioccio, Associate Dean of MSM said, "What excited us was Ashu's dream and dogged pursuit to create a world class contemporary music institute in India. We are developing a truly innovative concept, one that's unparalleled or unheard of anywhere else in the world." As associate dean of TSM as well, he also adds that they are more than happy to have amateurs on board because they in turn will still benefit greatly from the course and go on to develop an “educated audience” in the country.

III. The Campus

Lower Parel's Sun Mill Compound will play host to all the state-of-the-art-facilities on offer including a vast auditorium, production studios, a music library and accommodation facilities for visiting faculty as well. In other words, it's an actual campus. That in itself would be enough to entice most Indian students given that most of our educational institutions tend to be run-down buildings with rusting facilities. Members of the program would also have full access to all equipment and areas the school puts on offer for the entire duration of their membership, classes aside. In doing so, they hope to inculcate a creatively catalysing atmosphere where like-minded students could mingle comfortably within a positive, learning environment. Either way, we got a sneak peek into some photographic evidence of the institute and it’s far beyond anything we’ve seen in the country.

IV. Risks

Of course, it would be silly to assume that the notion of a school this ambitious doesn't come without its own risks. For example, in a country where the idea of being something other than a doctor/engineer/lawyer was borderline blasphemous until just a few years ago and a certified degree is valued far more than innovative spirit, will students be willing to make do with a certificate at the end of their module that may not hold as much weight as a regular degree? Will the overall benefits of the course really provide them with the incredible network, skills and expertise to survive in the industry and how affordable will it really be for the average Indian who dreams of being a musician?

Only time will be able to answer the former two but Ashu has a suitable response as to its affordability. "Today, most hopefuls who are serious about making a career out of their passion go abroad to study at Berklee and MI and what not. TSM is about bringing that same standard, right here at a far more affordable rate than that too," he says and he's confident that most graduates will be able to recover their fee within one year of graduating using what they’ve learned. Das decrypts it further by saying "the fee will cost only about 20% of that of any other reputed school in the world."

V. TSM’s Mission and Benefits

The overall goal is amply clear. In this burgeoning music scene, the school will aim to provide the much-needed foundation of education to provide people who are serious about making a career in the music industry with the ability to add longevity and an international level of skills towards the same. Ashu firmly believes that the kind of opportunities on offer here will not only enable a whole new generation of impeccable professionalism within the industry and an expanding network but it will also help to change the mindsets of an older generation who may not believe this to be a viable career path.

Simply put however, they're keen on creating India's next generation of professional musicians who will be far more equipped to forge legitimate career paths for themselves.

VI. The Need

There's no denying that there's a serious need for structure within an industry that has literally been brimming over in the last 5 years and TSM may be able to provide just that. Their outreach program which is designed to target schools with beginner courses in instrumentation will be helpful in developing musical ability from a younger age, in a far more disciplined manner.

Aside from this, even more importantly, the chance to receive a quality education in music within a price range that could be considered affordable is a massive plus for musician hopefuls in the country.

Even post all the dismemberment however, this particular body comes together again with ease. It's hard to be anything but encouraging about an endeavour of this sort because even if it was to be labeled over-ambitious, the latent sense of positivity and genuine passion that lies within its concept and everyone involved is infectious. Besides, it was about time someone tapped into the potential of the Indian music market from an educational perspective.

TSM appears to have made it through the autopsy unscathed proving that it may be well capable of creating a real body of musical structure here - even revolutionise the face of the industry in years to come. We can only hope the long-term outcome remains rooted in the same idealism it is today.

For more information about the True School of Music click here


Words: Mandovi Menon



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