When True School of Music launched in September 2013, only about 40 students enrolled at the institute, which promised contemporary education and state-of-the-art facilities. Three months later, its 19-year-old disc jockeying student Shayaan Oshidar performed a DJ set at the Sunburn music festival in Goa, a high-profile gig. Since then, Oshidar has performed at popular venues such as Blue Frog in Mumbai and High Spirits in Pune, and composed and recorded a track with electronic dance music producer Anish Sood.
Oshidar is now one of 200 students at the True School of Music (TSM), one of several institutes now dishing out new, niche courses in music, catering to a growing student market.
“Every year, almost 19,000 television commercials are created in India, for which only some 50 to 60 talented musicians are available. There are about 600 TV channels and 250 radio stations, all of which need original music, all the time. There is a huge demand for professional musicians now,” says Ashutosh Phatak, rock artist and composer and co-founder of TSM.
Until recently, formal music degrees in India were largely restricted to Hindustani classical or Carnatic music; while some institutes offered degrees in western music, they were few and far between. Just this year, the University of Mumbai has introduced an MPhil programme in music; Delhi University has started diploma courses in various musical genres; and Goa University has invited experts such as Shubha Mudgal and Jeet Thayyil to conduct short-term courses.
“Formal degree programmes could change the perception that music is a hobby, and get people to see it as a lucrative profession, as it is,” says Gaurav Chintamani, bass player with Delhi-based fusion band Advaita, who also teaches audio engineering and production at Sri Aurobindo Centre for Arts and Communication in New Delhi. “What remains to be seen is whether these institutes will uphold high standards for music or not.”
“When you are in a professional music school, you meet many others who are similarly passionate about music. The seniors, the alumni and your peers, all become a resource that you will heavily rely on later,” says Ankur Tewari, singer-songwriter based in Mumbai and lead of Hindi rock band Ankur & The Ghalat Family. “The field is where you hone your craft, but the schools make your approach to the field easier.”
Here’s a look at what’s on offer for aspiring musicians.
1. Studio and live sound
If you have a knack for sound and a passion for live performances, a career as a sound engineer could be your calling. A course in studio and live sound involves training in digital music softwares. Apart from creating, mixing, editing and mastering tracks, you also learn to do the post production work on the music.
“As a good sound engineer, you have to the learn the language of music,” says Phatak. Ear training, basic acoustics and system design and live sound mixing are some of the things you learn as part of the course.
“The live shows sector is exciting, since it requires everyone involved to be always on their toes,” says Arman Tejani, 19, a student of audio engineering at TSM. “Because of the increasing number of music festivals, corporate gigs and other shows, high quality sound has large demand,” adds Tejani who has mixed music for a Xolo smartphone advertisement.
Where: True School of Music, Sun Mill Compound,
The course: The Pro Certificate Programme is divided over two years. The certificate is not credited to any university other than the True School of Music.
Cost: Rs 3.9 lakh for the first year; Rs 98,877 per three month long module in the second year
2. Music Production and Engineering
A widely sought-after course in the West, music production and engineering (MP&E) gives you tools to compose music for varied fields. The course entails hardware and software knowledge of creating music, from the stage of composition to recoding to mixing, sequencing, programming and editing. Music production engineers can seek careers in films, TV, gaming, electronic dance music, radio, etc.
The scope for production has been increasing steadily because of the gradual rise in media and entertainment. “The yearly business, from giving music in film, radio and TV is Rs50,000 crore. Radio stations alone do business to the tune of Rs1,500 crore. These numbers will only increase,” says Shyam Rao, vice president, Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music (SAM) Kancheepuram, Tamil Nadu.
After pursuing an MP&E course, you can form a career as a singer, composer, lyricist, mixer or recorder. “Until now, most of these jobs were going to studios abroad,” adds Rao.
Music producers handle clients, musicians and creatives and the technical and software personnel. A hands-on course trains you to deal with the requirements of each department of the music industry.
“Learning music production or any other contemporary course at a music school cuts down the time that you would have taken to learn the same skills on the field,” says Tanmay Bhattacherjee, an ex-student at SAM, who now runs his own studio — Cotton Press Studio at Parel.
Where: Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music (SAM) Kancheepuram, Tamil Nadu
The course: Started this August. There will be two yearly intakes — the Fall semester starting in August and the Spring semester in January. The 28-week course is divided into two semesters
Cost: Rs 3.4 lakh for a full-time residential programme
For those inclined towards singing and composing their own music, KM Music College by the AR Rahman foundation is launching a certificate in composition. The course is created to streamline those composing self-made music through lessons in theory, instrumentation, orchestration and musical notes.
The KMMC, started in 2008, offers a two-year diploma in collaboration with the Middlesex University, London. The course is spread over a series of six-month levels, where students spend the last year of their diploma in London. The school also has courses in Sufi Qawwali, Russian Piano Studio and more.
Students from KMMC will be mentored by music maestro AR Rahman. “My stint at KMMC made me a versatile performer. We learned the basics of both Indian and Western classical music, owing to which I can do even rock and film music now,” says Arpita Gandhi, 24, an ex-student of KMMC. “I had no background of music and now I assist Rahman with singing, orchestral music and film music,” adds Gandhi, who recently gave backing vocals for Lingaa, a Rajnikant movie.
Where: KM Music Conservatory, Chennai, Tamil Nadu
The course: A two-year diploma with the second year in London
Cost: Rs 65,000 for each six-month block
“The demand for music is evident now in not just films, but advertisements, short films, gaming, radio, applications and more. To fulfil this demand, many more professional and talented musicians are required. The specialised schools will ensure that music will finally be looked at as a lucrative career option and not just a hobby. The flipside is that, if the standard of the curriculum at the schools is not maintained, students will lose many precious years.”
--Gaurav Chintamani, bass player with Delhi-based fusion band Advaita, who teaches audio engineering at Sri Aurobindo Centre for Arts and Communication, New Delhi
“The growing number of music schools is a reflection of the demand for musicians. Though there are certain skills that can be picked up on the go as a performer, there are some fields such as sound engineering and music prodcution that require technical skills. At the end, it’s about the kind of musician you want to be.”
-- Arjun S Ravi, co-founder, NH7, an independent music company that organises music festivals