RT Nagar, Bengaluru: Most people think of retiring at 60 and enjoying the rest of the days, but for Mrs. Aruna Sunderlal, managing trustee of The Bangalore School of Music, her work is everything. In 1974, she came to Bangalore with her husband and fell in love with the city. They decided to retire here. But fate had willed something else. An early death of her husband brought her to Bangalore in 1987, earlier than she had imagined.
“Luckily we had a place here. Our mothers were looking after the house. We had planted trees and shrubs along the drive way. I was involved in community service; raising funds for charity, Red-Cross Society, counseling youth with drug abuse and so on. After coming to Bangalore I decided to focus on music as I was myself interested in it. Bangalore had immense talent, good teachers, but no central place to learn music. “And thus came into being The Bangalore School of Music.
Her colonial house provided the school with a cottage. Teachers who were formally introduced to the idea were supportive. But all the established teachers had ego and status issue, to be associated with such a school. It took some time and later they agreed to send their senior students to teach. “I bought a grand piano from Delhi and collected a few string instruments. That took care of the infrastructure. But for the school I needed students. I was new to the city and could not ask teachers to bring students too,” she added. The first three students of the school were her daughter, niece and nephew. She begged them to help her and they did. “My daughter was interested in piano and my niece, and nephew took up classical guitar. It started with three students and in the first year itself we had 100 students for classical guitar. At the end of the year the school had 200 students”. With the growing demand for admissions, the infrastructure was not sufficient. The school was shifted to RT Nagar. The problem of infrastructure continues even now. The rooms are not sound proof, and the traffic disturbs the classes.
From the beginning the school used to teach singing to a few under- privileged children. “We could not teach all of them as the school had to pay teachers what they deserved. So we focused on a few talented children”. Teachers from the school go to government schools to teach students and also teachers. “Singing together brings harmony. Music is an area where you can meet new people. “Music breaks barriers. When we started we had a 70-year-old student who sang as he had asthma. Singing helps asthma patients. We had a programme for visually challenged children also. They sing in more than 15 languages”, she adds.
The Bangalore School of Music has exchange programmes with music schools in Stockholm, Germany, Spain and Switzerland. The recent one is with Zurich University of Arts which is going to set up a distance learning programme at the school.