Category: Shaina Kuo

Let you inspire by the journal of Shaina Kuo. She visited the Bangalore School of Music as an exchange student in February 2018 and wrote about her experiences and insights.

Sahina Kuo

My time spend in Bangalore

Already back at home in Zurich and I am reminiscing about my past 10 days in Bangalore, India.
I stepped out of the airplane and was welcomed by gloomy, cold and snowy (!) weather, the complete opposite of the beautiful 30 degree weather that I was spoiled with (and also really getting used to!) for the past 10 days. Not only was I spoiled with the beautiful climate, but also with delicious food, amazing and helpful coworkers, enthusiastic students, and the appreciation and love for music.
I left for BSM on February 4th, 2018 without really knowing what I was in for. Fränzi showed me the plan as we were waiting for boarding, but I would quickly learn that plans don’t mean very much at BSM. It’s more of a day to day vibe. Lesson times and rehearsals can change very spontaneously, so you’re always in for a little surprise. Little did I know that the adventure that I was about to go on and the people I would come to know would be far more exceeding than what I ever could have expected. After the extremely long trip from Zurich we arrived, completely exhausted, at 9 AM at Bengaluru Airport. Waiting in line to get through customs, the only thing I wanted to do was lie down and sleep! One foot out the airport door and the excitement and bustle of India hit me. The fact that I didn’t sleep for almost a whole day didn’t seem to be a problem anymore. We found our driver that would take us to our final destination: Bangalore School of Music. The drive from the airport to school was literally a bumpy one.
Within the 10 days, I learned that driving in India is always one hell of a ride. Again, I mean that literally. Everyone is honking and I can’t seem to figure out the rules of driving, or if there even are any! Jofi welcomes me at BSM, shows me my room and introduces me to Leila, who kindly helps me get settled in, shows me the local shops and explains “daily life” at the school. After a fantastic quick lunch just across the street we make our way back to the school. I already have an orchestra rehearsal in the evening with “Star Strings”, BSM’s beginner orchestra. Entering the school auditorium for the rehearsal, I’m greeted by around 15 youngsters with sparkling eyes and huge smiles. The goal that we’re working towards is the final concert on Sunday. The kids already had a bit of a look at the orchestra pieces that they would be performing ahead of our arrival, but there was definitely still a long road ahead before it was actually concert ready. I was pleasantly surprised by the willingness and ambition that the kids had. We had orchestra rehearsals almost every evening and I noticed throughout the week that certain elements, such as dynamic or phrasings, were very difficult for the orchestra to do. It was not a matter of aspiration, but rather the lack of technique over the instrument. Within the short period of time that we did have, I do believe that the end result was more than OK.
Aside from orchestra rehearsals, I had the opportunity to give private lessons. It was extremely enriching and humbling for me to be able to do this. The amount of gratitude that was given back to me from both the school and the students was very rewarding and motivating. The students were eager to learn and gain more knowledge, their positive attitude towards music and violin is beautiful. For me as a teacher, the joy that comes from making music together and the results following hard work and dedication is highly satisfying. One of the more difficult parts of the work that I had during this exchange were the workshops. It was a big learning experience for me, having a group of kids in front of me, and not all of them even violinists! Preparing for my first workshop, I youtubed videos for inspiration and brainstormed about fun group exercises for rhythm, bow hand and ear training. I didn’t feel too good about my first workshop. I wasn’t happy with my teaching, and I did not receive the results that I expected. I
already noticed during the lesson that it was hard to keep the group focused and interested. I had one more shot at a workshop during my time at BSM and I knew that I had to change it up a bit. I think the most challenging thing about the workshops were that they were so free. The kids didn’t have a specific piece or exercise that they were working on together. I was free to set the goal of the lesson myself. The fact that I did not know the level of the children also made it difficult for me to prepare in the right way. For the second time around, Leila, who is currently studying music education at the ZHdK offered to help me out. The great thing about this exchange program was not only being on site and learning from our professors, but also the chance to learn from our colleagues. I was able to gain ideas, inspiration and a more hands on way of teaching from Leila, and it is definitely something that I will continue to pursue and try to integrate in my teaching here back home. I am very grateful to have been part of this program. It wasn’t only enriching on a professional level, but also on a personal level. The BSM staff and students, teachers and parents, as well as the ZHdK professors and my colleagues were all so welcoming, helpful and lively. The opportunity to go across the world to a completely different culture where western classical music is still considered quite “new” is a once in a lifetime opportunity. The exchange between European and Indian culture was so very interesting. I arrived to India with misconceptions and left with actually not wanting to leave at all! The cultural exchange was stimulating and inspiring. As much as I hope that BSM and the students gained from my work and inputs at their school, they have also given me so much back. The hospitality and gratitude gave me so much drive to continue to give my energy and enthusiasm in every lesson. There have been so many times, where as a teacher I didn’t feel like I was making enough of a change through music and lessons despite all the hard work that I was putting in. It was a breath of fresh air! I have striven for the past 20 years to be the best, to be able to play faster, better, more musical than everyone else. As much as there is beauty in perfection, I’ve learnt that sometimes I forget to stop for a second and enjoy what I am actually doing. The past 10 days have made me learn to appreciate the opportunities that I have been given and most importantly the music that I make and am able to give to others around me. The spontaneity of the people and culture also reflects in music making. Not everything has to be planned out to the last detail, there can also be beauty in trial and error and especially living in the moment.