Do you remember the time when you used to think about things that don’t yet exist? When you used to paint, draw, sing, dance, make up stories, and express your imaginations in endless ways, without caring about who is watching or what others would think. Maybe you still do but a lot of us cannot remember when and how we stopped. As we grow up our parents and the society impose their ideas and beliefs about what is right and wrong and then, we get enrolled in the school system. Here is where a lot of our natural, inherent creative abilities, unfortunately, come to die. The school systems strive to implement mandated standards to help students excel in standardized testing and gain necessary skills for future job opportunities. It doesn’t celebrate gifts in the realm of art, music, poetry etc. Instead, the more logical analytical ways of knowledge are celebrated, such as maths, science, and memorisation. Surely, these are important gifts as well and they should be celebrated, but not all people fit into that mould and not everyone’s learning process is same.
Creativity is one of the superpowers that can help one to become the best version of themselves but our Society tells us to rather excel in school, work as hard as we can, and eventually teach our kids to do the same. It’s an endless cycle that leaves virtually no room for creativity.
To address this I initiated music classes in 2 schools of Dhubri as a pilot project. The general objective was to provide students with opportunities to awaken their curiosity, initiative, mindfulness, leadership capabilities, and persistence as well as social and cultural awareness through engaging in musical activities. I collaborated with a few street artists who go about singing folk songs in the streets accompanying tribal instruments such as Dotora, Madol and flute to earn their living. Their passion for continuing music regardless of hardships of their life inspired me to connect them to the schools.
Musical training has recently gained additional interest in education as increasing neuro-scientific research demonstrates its positive effects on stimulating brain development if practiced at early age. A study at Northwestern University found better neural processing in students who played a musical instrument when they were compared with students who simply listened to music. Children who undergo musical training have improved memory, enhanced language capabilities, strengthened hand-eye coordination, pronunciation accuracy, reading ability and a range of executive functions.
Music activities provide students with opportunities to develop foundational skills, including those that promote Social and emotional well-being. The process of understanding and comprehending the social and emotional aspects of life are referred to as “social emotional learning”. Music and social emotional learning complements each other in the education process. It can be used as an emotional stimulus; as an aesthetic experience, to foster imagination. Making music can be a form of self-expression and it can be a great medium of teaching cooperation and building relationships. Taking turns to share the musical instruments and exchange notes with peers can help build relationship and develop a sense of communication, collaboration, creativity and innovation among the children which are some of the most essential 21st century skills.
Till now I have organized four workshops in different schools as part of their Saturday club, where these musicians performed a few songs and made it interactive for the kids to take part in the process. Then they demonstrated some basic lessons and the students took turns to try out their hands on these instruments by playing some beginner level exercises. They also got to learn about the origin and making process of these instruments. A very little remuneration was offered to the artists through contributions from teachers and the community.
The commoners inhibiting the region are deeply connected with their traditional culture of folk music popularly known as the “Goalpariya lokageet”. Moreover, being able to connect to the children and their families on the basis of their regional culture might ensure a change in their attitude towards learning and hopefully bring students back into the classrooms.
After witnessing the initial success and feedbacks from teachers and guardians, I am now planning to extend this to Ten schools to impact 1400 students. Also I am planning to create a team of volunteer musicians and conduct capacity building workshops for them through few renowned artists and cognitive scientists so they can credibly impart music training in these schools weekly as part of Saturday club. Depending on its effectiveness this can be extended to more schools in the district and hopefully someday this will help in standardizing music education in every school throughout our country. This is the first step towards that vision.
To make this sustainable it is important for the students to have a set of music instruments in their schools so that they can regularly practice during the music period. But neither their families nor the schools are able to provide for the instruments required for them. So I am looking for support to provide a set of five instruments (Dotora, Pepa, Dhol, Shakers and Toy piano) to each of the Ten schools. Also funds are required to arrange for basic expenditure in capacity building workshops of volunteers and remuneration for the artists.
If you believe this will be fruitful and want to make this work, kindly lend some hands together to help me in arranging the resources I need to make this happen. These little artists are waiting for your precious gifts!