Debjani Sengupta is the music teacher at The Cambridge School, Calcutta, India. Here’s her story…
I was born and grew up in Calcutta, India.
To understand me you need to know a little about the history of Calcutta and India. We were a British colony for more than two hundred years. So, some of the culture of the British people filtered through to the people of Calcutta, as it was the British capital of India.
People here are quite different from the rest of India as the British influence was considerable here. Most girls of Bengali families learned to play the piano and western classical music. I, too, learned to play the piano. We were given optional lessons in our school. My father opted for it, and piano lessons were part of my school time-table.
My father was educated in Britain and so liked western classical music, and wanted his daughter to become proficient at playing the piano.
I passed the Trinity College of Music Examinations every year. The examiner came down from England in September. I also sat the theory examinations. I did well in both. There wasn’t much time to learn other pieces but I was happy with whatever I learned.
I loved music and loved playing the piano. I received emotional comfort from my instrument. My father had bought my piano from an English lady who was going back to England after being posted here.
The excitement of learning
In college, I joined the Calcutta School of Music to continue my lessons.
After college, I had Mr Joseph Braganza, a member of the well-known Braganza family, whose music store is still the best in the city, come home to teach me.
Now, I started learning other pieces, as he insisted I do this. I spent hours practising the piano. Literally hours!!
I was overwhelmed with playing Beethovan’s Pathetique Sonata, the whole thing, the Moonlight Sonata, and many other favourites. On the other hand, he taught me to play, Autumn Leaves etc too. My whole life was one of excitement.
Travelling and teaching
It usually finishes there for girls like me. There is no scope for performing in this city or anywhere else in India for Western music musicians like me.
I became a science teacher. But I had my music credentials on my CV so over the years I have worked as a music teacher in three different schools, one of them in the English International School in Moscow.
Home in Calcutta
On returning home to Calcutta, after fifteen years abroad, I am now working as the music teacher in The Cambridge School, teaching music to Classes Nursery to VIII.
I also put on the End of Year program, which is usually a musical. Mine is always a Western one.
My mother is a well-known singer who has received the V. Balsara music award in 2015. She sings Rabindrasangeet, a special type of Bengali song. All her brothers sing well. My brother plays the violin.
My daughter is a pianist. However, she has done the ABRSM examinations. She has a Boston Steinway.
Even though piano playing hasn’t been a life-long journey, as I am primarily a secondary school science teacher, it has been with me all my life. My piano has journeyed with me through four different countries and has returned to its home town, even though it was made in Leipzig, Germany in (they say) 1901.
I love playing the piano every evening while my dog sings along with my playing. Yes, I have a singing dog who loves western classical music too!
Debjani is the music teacher at The Cambridge School, Calcutta, India.
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