While many take to music as an escape from life’s realities, one woman has fuelled an entire generation of children who couldn’t afford to make the escape.
Faith Gonsalves was in the final year of her bachelor’s degree in History and Arts when she drew up plans for Music Basti — to use music to uplift children in impoverished districts of Delhi including the small village of Kapashera.
Countless children were being flung into a spiral of despair just because they were children of prostitutes, abuse victims or orphans.
With little to no nurture, these children often grew up constantly terrified of society and incapable of bonding.
Initially, a small project with a handful of musicians organising workshops in Northern Delhi, Music Basti was an abode for ‘at-risk’ children to seize music and to cope with their lives, by imparting life skills through the art.
The curriculum is drafted with well-rounded development of children in mind. “Confidence, creativity and leadership enable our young musicians to engage with an increasingly complex world,” says Faith.
Apart from these programmes, Faith also took a keen personal interest in their lives.
This initiative not only revealed the many musical facets of the children, but also resulted in several changes in their outlook.
“The confidence of our students has been one of our biggest achievements,” says Faith.
Change, however, was not limited to the children. The teachers have also experienced music as a medium of interaction. In fact, the programme has extended the spotlight to the 30 musicians who are selected every year.
To create a simple form of teaching, Faith often uses the Kodaly system where music lessons include a basic comprehension of musical notes. She ensures that this particular system gives every student the freedom to choose, learn and perform a song, precisely tailored to his/her individual interests.
Amidst our conversation, Faith also spoke about her family, recruitment and more.
How did your family shape your interest in music?
I grew up with my mum singing and playing the guitar for my twin sister and I. Also, my brother is a pianist and a music therapist. I used to perform at my college, Lady Shri Ram and with Artistes Unlimited. While studying or playing music professionally never interested me, it was really important in school and college and shaped my personality in profound ways. My dad’s background in education at the grassroots and policy level for almost five decades gave me critical insights into education in India, and also why music is so important.
How do you pick your teachers?
Every year in May we open applications. Musicians from the NCR are invited to apply. Selection is based on a combination of factors including musical proficiency, teaching experience, and also the applicants’ purpose for applying. Shortlisted applicants participate in an interview and a group audition that tests them on improvisation, team-work, leadership and effective.
What is the Pencil Project?
The Pencil Project was created in 2010 as a really short initiative of Digital Law and Kenneth (Mumbai). Music Basti used Facebook to raise awareness about the phenomenon of at-risk children. We also wanted to raise community awareness and support to address issues relating to the ‘at risk children’.
First published on New Indian Express