Interview: Arup Mitra, Jt. Head of Western Music of Calcutta School of Music on the school and the Indian Music Section

By Bidisha Bagchi

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The Calcutta School of Music is one of the premier institutions in India. It was established in the year 1915 AD by Dr. Phillipé Sandré, a musician of considerable calibre, a contemporary and friend of the famous composer Saint Saëns. It is probably the only school in the country which has a wide ranging canvas of musical disciplines covering all Western music disciplines, dance, speech training, elocution, and drama.

Arup Mitra, Joint Head of Western Music shared some interesting facts with WBRi about the school, its students and the Indian Music Section.

Tell us something about the school?

The School is an important part of the city of Kolkata, providing liberal instruction in musical subjects on one hand, and also arranging orchestral, chamber and solo music training and concerts, as well as music appreciation sessions throughout the year. 

The Calcutta School of Music promoted the Calcutta Symphony Orchestra in the days of yore, which performed under several well known conductors, the last of which was Bernard Jacobs. The Calcutta School of Music took under its aegis the Calcutta Chamber Orchestra from the Calcutta Foundation in April 2005 and have fashioned it into a competent chamber orchestra presenting works with international artists of repute. Its centenary will be is being celebrated in 2015 in a series of year-long events. His Excellency the Governor of West Bengal is a Patron of the School.

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What kinds of training does the school offer?

The School offers a broad spectrum of training, catering to the need of every type of student. Those desiring Diplomas in music can take the examinations of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, The Trinity Guildhall, London and the Thames Valley University, London. The latter board has the advantage of accepting students who do not wish to appear for examinations but play for leisure.

Is there any age criteria for joining the school?

Youngsters from the age of 5 can begin their musical initiation in rhythm at the Junior Music Classes. The School has recently started a 6 month course, "Skillful Music Recording" which is an introduction to sound engineering. “Born to Sing” introduced a few years ago which teaches in the Swedish-Italian school of singing.

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Classroom

Renowned local & international often visit the school for performances and concerts, how do the students benefit from these visits?

When renowned local artistes, as well as from foreign countries, visit the School for concert performances, master classes are arranged both for the Western and Indian Sections in music, dance and jazz instrumentals.

Please share a little bit about the Indian Music Section of the School.

The Indian Music Section was inaugurated by Pandit Ravi Shankar in 1975. It regularly stages dance expositions, as well as vocal and instrumental recitals, featuring eminent artistes. Vocalists are trained in ragas, Geet and Ghazal to Thumri and Kheyal. Indian dance instructions encompass all the three major disciplines of Odissi, Bharatnatyam and Kathak. There is even a special set of dance classes for the very young in the age group of 3½ to 6 years. Along with teaching, the school has arranged many interesting cultural events e.g, a Seminar on Dhrupad & Thumri sponsored by the Sangeet Natak Academy, workshop and seminar on the great Maestro Ustad Allauddin Khan sponsored by the Eastern Cultural Centre, Dance workshops by the celebrated Yamini Krishnamurthy, Kathak exponent Chitresh Das. Recently, a series of Concerts sponsored by ITC Sangeet Research Academy, featuring their most promising young artistes have also been brought into being. The well-known sitarist Mrs. Jaya Biswas was in charge of this faculty from the time of its inauguration. After her retirement, Mrs. Dalia Rahut, the well known ITC SRA trained vocalist became Head of the Indian Section.

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The India Youth Orchestra

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World Music Day