Ten Years of Transformative Music

Child’s Play (India) Foundation is all set to celebrate its 10-year anniversary with two concerts, the Monsoon Concert on the 21st of September and the Christmas Concert on 7th December 2019. The Goan NGO, which started teaching music to underprivileged children in 2009, is modelled after El Sistema and strives to make a positive transformation in their lives. Founder Dr Luis Francisco Dias talks about some of his experiences during these 10 years and the forthcoming concert.

Prutha Goa: How does it feel to have Child's Play (India) Foundation complete 10 years of teaching music to underprivileged children?

Dr Luis F Dias: I guess a whole range of emotions: a sense of achievement at having come to this milestone; but also an awareness of the long road ahead and how much more ground there is to cover. These ten years have taught me much: patience, perseverance, humility, and an enduring belief in the goodness that exists in the people and in the world; despite the many hurdles and disappointments we may have encountered along the way, it is more than balanced by the many acts of kindness and selflessness we have been blessed with, both big and small. We feel a big debt of gratitude to so many people, to God and to the Universe for making so many wonderful things come to fruition in our journey.

Prutha Goa: What have been some of the significant positive moments you have experienced during these ten years?

Dr Luis F Dias: When we started the charity ten years ago, we had no idea about the journey it would take us on and how this would take over our lives completely. In the decade gone by, we have met and taught hundreds of children. We have watched them grow from shy children to confident teenagers. Some of the children we started with ten years ago are still with us and I hope they will continue learning music even as they grow into adulthood. It is truly awe-inspiring to observe at such close quarters the transformative power of music in the lives of children and youth.   

We have had several milestones to be proud of: the Camerata Child's Play India performed at the Monte Music Festival in 2014; we were invited to speak at the INK Talks twice, in 2010 and 2017; we have had two major concerts every year since 2014 and that is no mean feat working with dozens of children across different locations and bringing them together as one ensemble. We were privileged to have our work featured in several national and international publications including Reader's Digest, The Hindu and Deutsche Welle

Ultimately, it makes me happy that the children who study with us experience the same thrill and joy that I do when I make music. It is marvellous and very satisfying to see them experience the power of music. Some children are visibly moved when they are in an orchestra or choir, surrounded by music.  Others are excited about just the chance to learn to play an instrument; it's something that they would never ever have had the chance to do otherwise.  It's heartening to see children eager to come to lessons, determined to learn something new every time.

Prutha Goa: What are your expectations for the future of Child's Play (India) Foundation?

Dr Luis F Dias: When we started Child's Play ten years ago, we expected to be a lot bigger by now. There is no dearth of children wanting to learn music. It is, however, very difficult to find experienced teachers and teachers who understand our ethos and believe in it passionately. Not every musician can be a good teacher, especially to little children.  

For the next few years, we will continue to build on what we have, especially our cello project, which has revitalised an interest in the instrument. We are committed to providing an excellent standard of teaching for our students. This means building a solid line-up of teachers, partnerships with similar institutions worldwide and opportunities to grow as musicians.  We are always open to applications from experienced and enthusiastic teachers. In fact, we get several emails every week from all over the world with enquiries about vacant positions. 

Some of our senior students are also being trained to teach as well and we hope that in the fullness of time, they will form a new generation of music teachers. 

Prutha Goa: How many children will be part of the concert, and what is the age range?

Dr Luis F Dias: This monsoon concert we have around fifty participants who will be on stage, in addition to our teachers and guest musicians. We have children as young as six, to adult learners who are part of our cello project. 

Prutha Goa: What are some of the musical pieces that will be performed?

Dr Luis F Dias: This concert will showcase a variety of pieces like works for beginner orchestra, and the more advanced ensemble will give the Indian premiere of a concerto grosso by a less-well-known Baroque composer, Johann Valentin Rathgeber (with children playing the solo parts); two movements (Rondeau and the famous Badinerie) of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Orchestral Suite no. 2 in B minor; Vivaldi concerto in C major (RV 115) for strings and continuo; and to celebrate our milestone, the soulful Andante Festivo by Jean Sibelius. We will also have performances by noted duo Omar de Loiola Pereira (guitar) and Selwyn Menezes (violin). The Baridisi Quartet will perform the Mozart Flute Quartet no. 4 in A major, KV. 298. In addition, our flute students will perform a three-part arrangement of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, while Irfan Simphigher, who has been with us all through our journey, will play Joseph-Hector Fiocco’s dazzling Allegro.   

Prutha Goa: How many hours of practice are the children putting in to prepare for the concert?

Dr Luis F Dias: We have begun working for this concert many months in advance. Most students (we work in four locations) get lessons twice a week or more. We have several group rehearsals before a concert where children from all our locations come together to play as an ensemble, along with musicians from the wider community who also form part of our orchestra, Camerata Child's Play India. 

Prutha Goa: Who (teachers and volunteers) do you have helping you with the preparation for the concert?

Dr Luis F Dias: We have a wonderful bunch of teachers working with us for the concert. Susan Badyari (flute) has been with us for many years. Dr. Valerie Menezes (flute) is also working with us. For violin/viola, we have Michael Hudson, a teacher from the USA and Chernoll Mendonca who leads our violin project in Santa Cruz village. I teach violin/viola as well. For cello, we are lucky to have a very experienced teacher from Denmark, Gudrun Theodora Sigurdardottir.  Both Michael and Gudrun are also working with a new batch of beginner students who you will see at our Christmas Concert on 7th December 2019. 

This year, we are very pleased to have two ardent supporters of Child's Play here to visit our project and play along with us at the concert. Jonathan Bager (flute) and Laura Riccardi (violin/viola) have been to Goa before and performed at concerts here. They were moved by our work and have remained in touch since. We are overwhelmed by the fact that they have come all the way to India especially to celebrate our 10th anniversary with us. Both Laura and Jonathan have spent the run-up to the concert working with our students and teachers and rehearsing with the orchestra.   

(Donation passes for the Monsoon Concert are available at Furtados. The concert will begin at 6pm on the 21st of September at the Menezes Braganza Hall, Panjim.)