Music in the classrooms

Mehli Mehta Music Foundation tunes ears of municipal school students

In 1995, conductor Zubin Mehta set about fulfilling his father's dream of training talented young Indians in western classical music.

Seventeen years since its establishment, Mehli Mehta Music Foundation is tuning the ears of children in municipal schools across the city with encouraging results.

Mehta Sr had founded Bombay Symphony Orchestra in 1935.

Four years ago, the foundation took its 'discover music' programme to St. Stephen's School at Kemps Corner. Through a tie-up with NGO Muktangan, 60 children aged two to six attended two weekly sessions at the foundation office on Cumbala Hill, South Mumbai, recently. They were trained in singing and playing instruments.

"The school is across the road from the foundation and every Monday and Wednesday, the children come to us for a 45-minute 'discover music' session. Our instructors teach them to understand and recognise beat and pulse, distinguish between a rhythm and beat and finally learn to sing. Studies show being exposed to music at an early age stimulates areas of the brain, resulting in positive development," said Farhanaaz Dastur, honorary director of the foundation's education programmes.

She said schools had responded favourably to the 'catch them young' initiative.

"Teachers from the school have said within two months of the children beginning the programme, they have been able to concentrate better and have become more disciplined. They have also told us children with learning disabilities have shown signs of improvement over the same period," Dastur said.

In the suburbs, the foundation has partnered with Aseema Charitable Trust that supports municipal schools in Santacruz and Bandra and has started teaching a first batch of 120 children.

"It is not always possible to send teachers to every school since they aren't permanent employees, but on their part, they go out of their way when they teach underprivileged children because they get a lot of satisfaction from these sessions. We are willing to teach music at every school that approaches us," Dastur said.

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