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My son Sumer has been a student of the violin at the NCPA’s Special Music Training Programme (now SOI Music Academy) for 6 years. This program is truly special as the children are taught in a conservatory-style, with the members of the Symphony Orchestra of India as their teachers. The gaggle of children has progressed to a stage where they perform as a Children’s Orchestra at the NCPA. As such, they are learning to master their instruments as soloists and equally importantly, coordinate as a team in concert with each other as well!

Three of these children, including my son Sumer (12 years old, violin), Sangeeta Jokhakar (14 years old, violin), and Tanvi Chakravarty (16 years old, piano), had the chance to participate in the third annual ‘Jumeirah Sounds’ International Competition in Dubai recently. This was the first real competition that any of them were participating in, so it was with a lot of excitement, curiosity, and a bit of trepidation with which we accompanied our children on this journey.

What greeted us was a riot of warmth, the babble of many languages, lots of smiling faces, and other eager performers from different age categories. There were instrumentalists, singers, and actors, sequinned and outfitted to put their best feet forward! There were people there from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Korea, Russia, and us from India. The judges were very experienced and accomplished, and from Moscow, New York and everywhere in between!

Our children rose to the occasion, practised frantically, performed coolly and professionally, and were awarded the prizes. Sangeeta won the Gold medal in the category of Violin Solo (11-14 years old), Sumer won the Silver for Violin Solo (11-14 years old), and Sangeeta and Tanvi won the Silver in the Chamber Music category.

Seeing them shine in this international milieu made me very proud. All the hours of class and practise, week after week, and year on year have produced young musicians who, while they are hard on themselves, and strive for excellence, cheer each other on and rejoice in each other’s accomplishments. Sangeeta and Sumer were, after all, competing against each other, in the same age category, with the same instrument. Yet I didn’t see the dark side of competition in that relationship. There was support, comfort, and excitement for each other. This healthy interaction is, for me, the most important softer aspect of the NCPA’s Special Music Training Program, as it teaches such an important life lesson. We face competition in every sphere of life. If our children are able to look that in the face and deal with it with equanimity and positivity and delight in each other’s accomplishments, I think we will have gone a long ways towards raising more empathetic and confident children.

And what do the children have to say about all this? Do they love what they do? Sangeeta says that she is sure that she will pursue her passion in music as her career. “I am still figuring out what I want to do later in life,” Tanvi says, but firmly adds that she would “love to go with music.” And Sumer? “I haven’t decided yet, but I will always play the violin, no matter what I do.”