Thursday, October 7, 2010

Post: Oct. 7

Yikes, I haven't posted in 17 days! Sorry sorry sorry. We moved into the campus form Tapovan on Sep. 26 and things have been crazy busy since then. Here's the synopsis:

Last week on Sep. 29, the inauguration of the campus was celebrated by a brilliant performance by the SAM students. We, the faculty, were extremely proud of them- they totally rocked the formal black tie event. The ceremony/performance took place on SAM's rooftop terrace and the starlit atmosphere (with goats bleating away in the distance) made the occasion all the more special. The next day we travelled into Chennai to perform a faculty/student concert at the Egmore Museum Theatre. The theatre had this lovely musty smell that reminded me of old books and libraries. It was a circular theatre similar to University of Toronto's Convocation Hall, but on a smaller scale. A very cool venue. What made it cooler was the bat that flew in during soundcheck and stayed for the entire performance, gobbling up mosquitoes as it circled above us. The performance was a lot of fun and a great way to finish up the semester. The students performed really well for the second night in a row. I'll say again how proud I am to have watched them grow a develop into real musicians over the past two and a half months. That night felt like the unofficial end of the semester because over the next five days we would be teaching a five day workshop at SAM that would include 20 new students from all over India. Before telling that story, let me first describe the great food we had the day of the concert. We ate lunch at an American-style diner called "Sparky's". The owner and chef is from Orange County, California and he cooked us the best North American food I've ever had (or at least it tasted that way to our dhal-saturated palattes!) It was surreal to be in there, surrounded by lots of other foreigners. This place is the only restaurant of its kind in Chennai, so it attracts us westerners. The waiter knew what we were about to ask when we started asking if the water and ice cubes were filtered! I had a chicken burger with fries that truly melted in your mouth- I still can't stop thinking about it! So we played the concert with happy bellies, only to head out to the best vegetarian restaurant in Chennai after the performance. I can't remember the name, but it's the only restaurant in the city open past 11pm. I had a delicious crispy dosa with mint and coconut chutney and sambah on the side, plus the best mango lassi I've had in India. It was a great day- I headed back to the campus on a high.

We had the next day off before the workshop began on Saturday morning. The workshop was really for students who couldn't commit to a six month program due to work, school, etc.. It ran from Saturday to Wednesday (yesterday). It was really nice to meet and hear the new students- more great talent emerging from this country! It was even cooler to see the old crew of SAM students step up and re-affirm their musicianship skills beside the new crew. The faculty each taught two ensembles over the course of the workshop. Both my ensembles rocked, if I may say so with a slight personal bias. I taught my first group a song called "In Your Wild Garden", written by one of my favourite singers/composers, Josefine Cronholm. It's a deceptively difficult tune as it only contains three chords but is played in a straight eighth 5/4 time going to a 3/4 swing over the bridge. They loved the song and really pulled it off in performance. My second group did a song written by our singer, Maalavika Manoj, called "Deceptive". It was awesome to watch them perform it and rock out, and Maalavika (who is only sixteen years old and a natural talent) totally owned the stage while the rest of the band rocked out. Our vice-president, Shyam Rao, supported the students on the drums which was an even greater treat.

After last night's student performance, it was time to say goodbye to the students and many of the SAM employees that we've gotten to know and will truly miss. Thank goodness for things like facebook where we can easily keep in touch with friends halfway across the world. I'm sure that I'll be seeing some of these students under bright stage lights in the not-too-distant future.

Our last day of teaching being yesterday, last night I had multiple nightmares about packing and missing my flight home. We're leaving for Chennai plenty early on Sunday afternoon (my flight home isn't until 5:30 on Monday morning!). In the meantime, we're heading to Pondicherry and Auroville tomorrow to do some shopping and probably have a nice meal at Sat Sanga or the Promenade Hotel. Saturday will be packing day and Sunday will bring more goodbyes with my amazing faculty colleagues. We're all flying out of Chennai airport to our separate destinations in the wee hours of Monday morning. It has been an honour and privilege to perform and teach alongside these guys. I'm grateful to have had this experience, with all its ups and downs. I am, however, very much looking forward to coming back to the land of the silver birch, home of the Canadian bacon and cheeseburger.

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