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‘Music is the language of passion and expression’

With 20 years of teaching music and an alumnus of Apeejay College of Fine Arts, Nidhi Sharma says that while music is her soul, painting is her passion



She was in Class II when she gave her first solo performance in school which won the heart of the entire school. “I still remember that after I finished the song a teacher walked up to me and picked me in her lap and hugged me and asked me where I had learnt to sing like this,” Nidhi Sharma, a music teacher with Apeejay School, Rama Mandi, Jalandhar recounts.

Sharma said that her mother encouraged her to sing from a young age. “When I was much younger, I used to sound a lot like the late Lata Mangeshkarji whom I consider my first guru. The second is my mother. From the day I won my first solo performance wherever there was a singing competition I would participate and win,” Sharma said.

However, it was only when she came to class IV that she started taking vocal training classes from Akhil Bharatiya Gandharva Mahavidyalaya Mandal and even Kolkata Gharana. Both had centres in Jalandhar that offered three-year degree courses. By the time she finished her schooling she had completed programmes from both centres.

She then joined Apeejay College of Fine Arts in Jalandhar for an MA in Music Vocal. Since then she has only perfected her craft. So much so that a director from Bollywood had even offered her a song for his film; she was under contract to not sing for anybody else.

But destiny had other things in store for this teacher who has been teaching music at Apeejay School in Jalandhar for the last two decades. In a candid interview, she talks about her journey, the importance of music in a student’s life and how painting and sculpture are her passion.

How did you end up teaching music?

Teaching was not my aim; I always wanted to be a playback singer. A Bollywood director who had heard me singing had offered a contract and I was all set for a career in this field. But then I had to go and collect my degree. The Head of the Department of music at that time, Amita Mishra ma’am, told me that there is an opening for a teacher position at Rama Mandi branch and that the post would be given to me if I was interested. I didn’t even think twice. I went for the interview immediately and was selected. The rest is history. I have not regretted this decision even for a single second of my life.

What role does music play in our lives, especially students?

Music is the language of passion and expression. It provides mental relaxation to people. For students who have been studying continuously during the day; music refreshes the mind. Second, students who are not very good at studying can improve their scores. This I have seen during my career thus far. Music requires concentration of the mind. This helps to improve a student’s memory. Three, it promotes brain growth and development. Four, music inculcates values among children. When I teach bhajans or Shabad Vani, the idea is not restricted to teaching those songs, it is also to explain what each word means.

For example, telling the students the meaning behind Vaishnava Jana To… This keeps the interest of the students in music and they learn our cultural values as well. Teaching music is not the only mantra here.

The present pandemic has affected children mentally – depression and anxiety are commonly seen. Can music uplift mood?

Yes, definitely. COVID-19 wreaked havoc among students. Many students lost their parents; their suffering was huge and it was devastating for them. Music was a great outlet for their grief and an avenue to keep them distracted from their loss. Just like yoga, music plays an important role.

Kids who have breathing issues also benefit a lot over time when they do riaz. Music is all about increasing your lung capacity when you learn ragas. We teach kids how to hold their breath when they sing a raga. These exercises help kids to improve their health issues.

You have been teaching for over two decades. What has changed?

I joined the teaching profession in 2002. In the last two decades, there have been many changes. The tastes of kids have changed. They like peppy/dance numbers and western songs. Songs with a classical tone have taken a back seat today. I teach classical music and my son is far removed from all this. He is more interested in western and peppy songs. It was my dream to teach my children classical and semi-classical songs. My son, on the other hand, sings only in English.

However, there is always an exception to the rule. One of my students is very interested in classical music and loves to sing Shabad Vani. He is extremely talented.

“Music provides mental relaxation to people. For students who have been studying continuously during the day, music refreshes the mind.”

Nidhi Sharma, Music Teacher, Apeejay School, Rama Mandi, Jalandhar

What is the importance of teaching our children our classical roots?

It is very necessary. Through music, they learn about our rich heritage and culture. Take my choir group. Even though the number of students is small – I have around eight-10 students – they are a dedicated lot and always interested in learning new things. Every time there is an event in the school, they are enthused to learn different songs. During Dr Stya Paul’s birth anniversary that we celebrated this year, the bhajans that they sang were so brilliant. The onus of teaching and how to teach rests on us. If we teach students, they are willing participants.

Why is music losing interest among students?

The reasons are varied. Most children are interested in computers and end up taking courses in this field. Parents too insist that kids take up extra-curricular activities that can help them in bettering their job prospects. Music, sadly, is nowhere in the thick of things. Some children will even opt for sports – either to improve their Class XII results or make a career as a sportsperson. Music is a niche sector and there is too much competition. See the talent that we get to see in reality shows on television. Each person is so brilliant but how many make it big? There is a struggle in this industry even though several career options are satisfying.

Shalini is an Executive Editor with Apeejay Newsroom. With a PG Diploma in Business Management and Industrial Administration and an MA in Mass Communication, she was a former Associate Editor with News9live. She has worked on varied topics - from news-based to feature articles.