Creating Holistic Musicians and Teachers
Member Spotlight: Anjli Mata
This article originally appeared in the August 2017 Teaching Music.
By Joanne Sydney Lessner
Anjli Mata’s unique path as a teacher of Western classical music in India began as a child, watching her father play the harmonium by ear. “I loved to watch his fingers fly across the keys and soon started experimenting myself,” she says. “After much resistance from my mother, who thought I should be learning Indian music, I managed to convince her to allow me to learn Western classical music. Today she is 89 and says, ‘Thank God you did not listen to me!’”
The President of the Western Music Education Association reflects on being a music educator in India.
Mata quickly realized that her interest lay in teaching rather than performing. She credits teacher Aruna Pasricha with expanding her knowledge base beyond the piano to include recorder, guitar, music theory, music appreciation, and the Orff methodology for young learners. “She was my inspiration. Today, whatever I am is because of her,” Mata says. “Western classical music was not widely heard in India, and when I began teaching, the interest level was pretty low. However, over the years with exposure to social media, this has changed. The availability of instruments is also a challenge, as we have to import them all.”
A music educator for 45 years, Mata currently teaches at the Delhi School of Music and conducts extensive teacher training all over India in her role as National Academic Head for Trinity College, London, England. In January 2017, she became the President of India’s Western Music Education Association (WMEA), the first official NAfME affiliate outside the U.S. The goal of the WMEA is to advance the professional development and working conditions of music teachers in India, whether they are part-time, full-time, private, or academic. The association will provide practitioner-based workshops, conferences, and resources that support professional development, as well as models for contracts, accounting, intellectual property rights, and other legal and practical matters.
“In India, it is not easy getting anything to happen quickly,” Mata admits. “The paperwork and processes take a lot of time, especially for a nonprofit company.” The WMEA is in the initial stages of fundraising, but the outlook is positive. “Teachers are very curious about what is on offer,” says Mata. “We hope to attract membership from across the country and open more chapters of the WMEA in other states in India.”
“For me, the biggest reward is when one of my students becomes a teacher.”
The satisfaction of sharing knowledge with others is what keeps Mata teaching. Her family has been fully supportive of her career—not a given in India where, as Mata notes, “the woman always needs to be the homemaker.” But she also points out that things have changed over the years, and her profession never required a strict nine-to-five schedule.
Mata believes music educators should stay updated on new performing and teaching techniques and never stop learning, especially from their students. “I would like my students to develop into holistic musicians and teachers,” she says. “For me, the biggest reward is when one of my students becomes a teacher.”