For many young Western Classical Music (WCM) enthusiasts, learning this form of music does not progress beyond being a hobby or passion. Even of the immensely talented ones – in vocal or instrumental – only a few pursue a career as professional musicians. In more recent times, the scenario appears to be changing as Western Classical Music has been increasingly gaining popularity amongst the youth today. Gifted and motivated youth can now explore career avenues in the world of WCM, especially Western music schools, such as the NCPA in Mumbai, which have opened up opportunities for students to hone their talents towards developing their full potential. In India, Western music lovers and enthusiasts, for a long time, depended on patronage from individuals and organisations, such as the Mehli Mehta Music Foundation, The Time and Talents Club and the Bombay Madrigal Singers who presented splendid artists but had no formal teaching programs. Also, unfortunately, they did not seem to have the advantages of sufficient funds, international calibre teachers who now prevail the scene, particularly in Mumbai, such as the NCPA. A leading connoisseur of WCM and Chairman of the NCPA, Khushroo Suntook, speaks with Parsi Times on the youth increasingly looking to WCM as a career.
PT: What do you think of the possibility of pursuing a successful career in Western Classical Music in India?
Khushroo Suntook: In India, WCM lovers and enthusiasts, for a long time, could not opt for a career in WCM unless you were a teacher or played in foreign orchestras or gave recitals in foreign countries – there was hardly any hope to have a real career as a musician in WCM. But I’m glad to share that one of the aims of the NCPA is to provide the opportunity of having a successful career in Western Classical Music. With the advent of the children’s orchestra in Mumbai, there is hope that they would finally seek a professional career, either in India or abroad. Incidentally the children’s orchestra just performed a concert in Abu Dhabi and were greatly appreciated. This would be an enormous impetus for other children to convince their parents to let them train professionally. I hear that the children were accompanied by many family members and there was a buzz about the youthfulness of this type of training, which may result in giving professional employment to these young artists. However, all of this still remains to be seen….
PT: How would you describe your professional journey as a connoisseur of WCM?
Khushroo Suntook: I do not consider myself as a connoisseur of Western Classical Music. However, experience and being surrounded by music, encouraged me to seek to do something meaningful for western classical music, on a full time basis, after my retirement. This organisation has given me opportunities to fulfil the dreams of many fine musicians, such as the Mehta family etc., who could achieve their full potential when they went abroad.
PT: What kind of preparations must one undertake to pursue a career in WCM?
Khushroo Suntook: The basics stay the same, just like in every other profession – but yes, unflinching dedication to music would be required and the rest will come with listening, reading, going to the library and talking with knowledgeable persons and above all, with great teachers. Professional skills can be honed through good teachers and several examinations, which cater to Western Classical Music.
PT: They say pursuing a successful career in music as an area of your passion provides unparalleled ‘job satisfaction’. True?
Khushroo Suntook: It is absolutely true that unparalleled job satisfaction emanates from a passion with which you love your job. How few of us are given that privilege! Western classical music enthusiasts derive as much pleasure from listening to great music as much as IT dedicatees do from solving problems in the business and communication world!
PT: What guidelines would you like to give those considering a career in WCM?
Khushroo Suntook: Two things – firstly, while it is good to seek professionals and mentors to help you start your journey, do not push your talent on experienced people – it annoys them. Secondly, if you are a mid-range artiste, whether vocal or instrumental, seek proper and unbiased professional advice, as to the level that you can hope to achieve. However, I must add that musicians who practice greatly, were also as successful as many who had an inborn talent.”
PT: What message would you like to share with our Community?
Khushroo Suntook: The Parsi community, which at one time loved Western Classical Music, is seeing its youth, sadly and slowly succumbing to the onslaught of pop, rock and other forms of music. In keeping with the positive possibilities of a successful career in music, parents should not stop their children but encourage their inclination towards gravitating towards this great form of music. I would urge everyone to listen carefully and derive the immense satisfaction one feels listening to Classical music – in fact, it also creates a circle of friends with similar tastes, and with whom lifelong friendships endure due to this common shared passion. Our community has been blessed with this great legacy – let’s not undermine it and lose it.
PT: Tell us about how the NCPA is growing from strength to strength as the leading proponent of Western Classical Music in India
Khushroo Suntook: The NCPA is blessed with internationally acclaimed premium performing spaces, which musicians from India and the world over, aspire to perform at. Our Founder, Dr Jamshed J Bhabha, was himself extremely passionate about Western Classical Music and encouraged me in the promotion of this great genre. His support for my musical director, Marat and myself, towards establishing the Symphony Orchestra of India, under inspired foreign teachers, was a step which catapulted the NCPA into a different sphere.
The NCPA is a huge, multi-genre centre, with over 600 performances across India including Western Classical Music, Indian dance, theatre, direct broadcast from the MET, New York, National Theatre, London, Royal Academy of Arts, London, and it is also the preferred choice for iconic lectures on many subjects where speakers of the calibre of Henry Kissinger, Nani Palkhiwala, Fali Nariman and many others of equal calibre, spoke to the elite as well as the public of Mumbai. NCPA was a natural choice in Mumbai for developing interest in performing arts and has achieved this status over many years of commitment and consistent effort.