“Music is the Language of the Spirit”- A Student’s Journey through the Pandemic
I have looked forward to studying music from as early on as I can remember. It is very difficult to get a university education in Western classical performance in India. I had been looking to apply abroad for a while. Thus, managing to get a scholarship with Singapore Raffles Music College was a very fortunate turn of events.
While boarding the flight from Kolkata in late March of 2020, there was a sense of unease hanging in the air. A lot of unanswered questions were flying around. India was still receiving scattered reports of COVID-19 cases and the threat of a pandemic hadn’t exactly sunk in. But Singapore’s numbers had been growing steadily. With the term being pushed back multiple times and new government regulations being rolled out every single day, I really didn’t know what to expect. It seemed inevitable that the regular flow of academics and learning would be affected adversely. On top of that, something as intrinsically dependant on interaction as music education may even get put on hold altogether.
Upon arriving in Singapore, we were informed that the term would commence as expected and lessons conducted online. With a nation-wide Circuit Breaker announced, there didn’t seem to be much of a choice anyway. I was torn between excitement for finally getting to study music and apprehension over how well I was going to be able to do so.
When the term finally commenced, I was shocked at how well-organised it felt. Yes, I was stuck indoors, unable to explore the new country I had moved to and facing a global pandemic—but my academics were surprisingly on track. The classes were being conducted over virtual video conferences. We were interacting with the teachers as freely as we may have in an actual classroom and they were conveying information to us over a virtual platform. The academic staff were usually no more than a phone call away to help with any issues— Academic or otherwise.
As the term progressed, schoolwork felt like a genuine respite from the sense of isolation and disconnect brought about by the virus. I was learning and improving as a musician in perceptible ways every day. I was getting to study the origins of music itself for the “Music in Context” class while researching and analysing familiar musical works in “Music Analysis”. My “Principal Study” teacher was constantly urging me to try new things and correct flaws in my technique over video calls. I was even making friends while working on cooperative projects with other students in the form of ensemble work.
2020 has made us experience a whole spectrum of emotions ranging from uncertainty and isolation to loneliness and frustration. In these trying times, I found myself locked indoors in a foreign country, miles away from my loved ones and family. However, the fact that SRMC made it so simple to keep pursuing my musical goals even in a situation of such adversity is what kept my spirits intact. I was immersing myself in schoolwork which was both rewarding and engaging while feeling a sense of belonging among my classmates and teachers – even though I was interacting with them over a screen.
It feels as if we learned a lot more than just music over this unusual semester. But SRMC managed to feel like home even when we weren’t physically inside its premises. And that’s just the feeling we carry into the next semester while looking forward to the recommencement of live concerts, physical classes, and workshops aplenty.