Written by Parvathy Krishnan P on 18 August 2021
I was fortunate to be a part of what I consider the greatest initiative of Shankar Mahadevan Academy – the Joyful Choir program. This program is all about spreading the love and joy of music to children with special needs.
I remember one experience I had a few months before with a boy named Rikhil. He is about 12 years old, and studies in the 7th grade at Endeavorel, Deens Academy, a school located in Whitefield, Bengaluru.
Teachers of Joyful Choir get special training at Shankar Mahadevan Academy. During my training, Deepa Sridhar, Trustee, Shankar Mahadevan Academy and Seema Ovalekar, a senior teacher, suggested that I make the class lively by using musical accompaniments when I taught the children to sing.
To make the class active and lively, I carry small musical instruments whenever possible. I like to carry a variety of small musical instruments to class – tambourine, different types of shakers, xylophone, etc. And I buy them.
One fine day, I introduced a new instrument – the Kazoo – to my class children.
Kazoo is a wind instrument family member. Now, most of the instruments I bought are all small, simple, handy instruments that even kids can play without much professional training. The Kazoo was an exception. It takes a little effort to learn to play it. I had to work a bit to learn to play the Kazoo, mainly by watching tutorials on YouTube. But that's all it took.
Once I introduced the Kazoo in the class, all the children, including Rikhil, were excited. They wanted to feel the instrument and play it. One and all, they liked it.
In every class of Joyful Choir we have warm-up sessions, swara-singing exercises, and a few songs sung along with certain activities. Now, this is where we come back to Rikhil in our story. I always found Rikhil taking only an average interest in class. For instance, I would not find him taking much initiative in any class activities.
I wondered what the reason might be. Maybe, being from a senior grade, he expected the classes to be of a higher level. And I told myself that is something I could not do because some of the other children had not reached that level. Another thing was that Rikhil was not interested in learning to sing a song line by line.
But, on the other side of the coin, I found that Rikhil has music inside him. One thing is he put the correct beats to the songs I played in class. And he was – and always will be, I feel – bang on the rhythm.
Then came the next class. I was taken aback to see Rikhil walk into class with a brand new Kazoo. He played the instrument nicely too. I would say it sounded better than his singing :)
I asked Rikhil why he bought the instrument. He told me that he liked it because it is handy, it produced a very soothing sound – and to play the instrument, he did not have to learn any lyrics by-heart. I learnt then that Rikhil had a problem in memorising lyrics and singing a song.
Initially, Rikhil found it hard to play the Kazoo. But, thanks to my research, I could show him the way to play it. He now continues with his efforts to learn the instrument.
This experience gave me happiness. I felt fortunate that, knowingly or unknowingly, I was a cause for Rikhil to find some meaning and purpose in his music class. It proved to be a great inspiration and a boost for the other children, too, to try out such instruments. It is exactly this kind of experience that makes me love what I'm doing.
I'm now planning to learn some more instruments – maybe, first, the Ukulele :)
Parvathy Krishnan P
Music teacher in Shankar Mahadevan Academy since 2018
Enjoying each and every nuance of my journey.