The Keys to my Heart
When I was very young - not more than four or five years old - my mother asked me which instrument I’d like to start learning. I’d always been intrigued by the big piano which had been sitting at home since before I was born. For about a year or two before that, I’d watched my sister learn to play piano, two of my aunts play the piano beautifully, and my mother play every once in a while as well. Of course, like any other copy-cat younger sister/daughter/niece, I told my mother that I wanted to learn the piano and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
I’ve had my fair share of teachers - people came home, I went peoples’ houses, I’d have a couple trial classes every couple years, I tried Mehli Mehta, I even learned piano in a hospital for a good few years, and then finally, I auditioned for the Symphony Orchestra o Music Academy (a music school at NCPA run by members of the SOI, mainly Russian and Kazakh) when I was 9 years old I’ve been there ever since. I’d never realized it but my whole family used to always tell me about how great my ear was. From the moment I figured out the basic notes on the keyboard when I was 3, without any lessons, I was able to play melodies and even full songs by ear having listened to them just once with no sheet music. My parents also realized around that time that I had something known as perfect pitch (basically when someone can decipher different pitches, notes, tones, keys, etc with no frame of reference, which gives people the ability to play by ear as well). The exact moment they realized was when we were in the car, my father honked the horn and I was able to tell that there were 2 different notes in the horn.
The SOI Academy is a pretty rigorous program and very classical music-centric. Alongside the main instrument, choir, orchestra and history of music, they required us to do solfeggio, which is similar to music theory. My teacher gave us homework assignments every week where we had to compose songs of different styles, lengths, keys and characters. This got me interested in music composition and last year, I seized the opportunity to use my smaller compositions, turn them into a few bigger ones, and apply to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music for a music composition camp. I was one of 7 and the only girl who got selected into the program and it was 4 of the most enriching weeks of my life. In the end, I was able to learn so much about both classical music and music in a technological context (something I’d never tried before) and come out of it having composed a fusion composition with a mix of Indian and Western classical music for a quintet which I was extremely proud of.
I’ve always loved acapella music and breaking up regular songs into multiple harmonies which come together and sound so gorgeously wholesome. Recently, I started getting more into singing on my own too, which is extremely out of my comfort zone because despite my perfect pitch, I’ve always been insecure about my tone and range. Now I also have an Instagram account dedicated to music where I post covers on the piano as well as some singing videos (shameless self plug - it’s @_deep_treble_). I’ve gotten the opportunity to play solo with the Symphony Orchestra of India chamber orchestra, with a children’s orchestra, as well as sing with and accompany some amazing singers and instrumentalists. To this day, my favourite thing in the entire world is to get a whole stack of new music which I’ve never played before, sit at the piano and sight read each piece one by one. It brings me so much joy when people ask me to play something on the piano on the spot and I’m able to play it and turn a short conversation into a jam session. I love sitting at the piano after dinner and belting songs with both my sisters while our parents either video us enthusiastically or clamp their hands over their ears.
My plan was to always go to the US, major in music and end up with a degree in music performance, education or composition. Then, my sister suggested I try music production or music technology, which began to interest me as well. Of course I’d love to study music further and take this passion of mine forward but I still have some concerns. After having had lots of time to think about it, I realized that if I burn out because of the amount of time and energy I invest into something I’m so passionate about, there’s a possibility I’ll turn bitter towards it and treat it more like a chore or a job rather than a hobby. I have no idea what I want to do in the future (and that’s okay!) but I know one thing for sure: whatever I do choose to do, I want music to still be something I turn to when I’m stressed, something I do to make 3 hours feel like 3 minutes, something that makes me all warm and fuzzy inside just thinking about it, and something that makes me feel at home no matter where in the world I am.