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Wielding baton for professional orchestra

When he was four and in a UK Montessori, Zane Dalal would crawl under the piano, instead of leaving the music room with his classmates, reports Purva Mehra.

mumbai Updated: Feb 12, 2010 01:33 IST
Purva Mehra

When he was four and in a UK Montessori, Zane Dalal would crawl under the piano, instead of leaving the music room with his classmates.

At 44, Dalal has two degrees in orchestral conducting from Oxford University and has been the conductor-in-residence with India’s first professional orchestra, the Symphony Orchestra of India (SOI) since 2007.

Tall, poised, wielding a baton, Dalal predictably says flattering things about a brand he has helped build. “For the first time in Bombay’s illustrious musical history, the SOI has provided a completely professional orchestra, making it the music capital of South-East Asia,” he said.

Dalal did have reservations before he took on the role. But when he rehearsed with the orchestra, he found their artistic standards high. “There are philharmonic orchestras that are 150 years old. We’re only eight seasons old in four years but have come an extraordinarily long distance in an extraordinarily short time because we’ve always stretched the orchestral ability with each new season.”

The SOI is 90 members strong and headlined by noted Kazakh music director Marat Bisengaliev. “Audiences here are keen on what they like to hear. As musicians we relate to people as sands of a desert or as a Shakespearean actor will say, fickle. Through SOI we’re trying to build an audience through education and music appreciation,” he said.

The city’s children were first inducted in this process of building an audience through the Japanese Suzuki Method of teaching musical instruments that Dalal introduced at the NCPA last year. “Learning an instrument gives confidence and pride to a child. Parents might sense their excitement and get drawn into the circle and finally we hope that some of the kids we train become future members of the orchestra,” Dalal said.

Besides the 180 children enrolled in the programme, they hope to train local musicians to take on the teaching mantle.