Furtados School of Music: Spreading the joy of learning music

Dharini Upadhyay, co-founder & co-CEO of Furtados School of Music at a piano
Dharini Upadhyay, co-founder & co-CEO of Furtados School of Music

Furtados School of Music, founded in July 2011, is one of the most popular music schools across the country. Partnering with over 200 schools in different parts of the country, the School today spreads the joy of learning music to thousands of children.

Band-It Festival, a musical event initiated by Furtados School of Music in 2012, has over the past seven years grown into a national festival, bringing together young music lovers from all over India, annually.

To learn more about School and the Festival, The Teenager Today spoke to Dharini Upadhyay, the co-founder and co-CEO of Furtados School of Music.

Excerpts from the interview.

How did Furtados think of starting a School of Music, and why? When did you begin the School?
The Music School as an extension of business is something that the Furtado family always wanted to pursue. It was a passionate dream to build an entrepreneur entity, with a purpose to create a legacy that steered Tanuja Gomes (co-founder and CEO) and me towards enabling the dream of bringing life to Furtados School of Music.

There is a lot of work done in neuroscience on effective ways to update an outdated understanding of the purpose and importance of music education in every child’s educational journey. But our country does not have a structured approach to music education and so the vision of FSM is “to offer universal access to quality music education to students across the country in a fun -filled and joyous manner”.

Co-founder and CEO Tanuja Gomes at the Maharashtra Educator’s Summit 2019
Co-founder and CEO Tanuja Gomes (right) at the Maharashtra Educator’s Summit 2019 at which Furtados School of Music was felicitated.

Tell us about the early years of the Music School. Who initiated it, and from where did the School start functioning?
Tanuja and I were both bankers and decided to hang up our boots to pursue our dream to set up our first entity. We did considerable amount of groundwork and were convinced that this was the business idea we will pursue. We also assessed and met a few educators in India to understand the same for schools over here, which gave us a clear understanding of where the gap lies and highlighted the immense opportunities that existed in India. We originally started with “excellence centres” where students came to pursue their interest in piano learning programme, and gradually expanded our offer to different instruments like, guitar, drums, violin, vocals, etc.

What was the purpose of reaching out to regular schools, and how did they welcome the idea?
We felt we did not reach out to all students as access was still limited to the few who already had an exposure to music or were guided by their parents to pursue music as part of their various activities. Our dream was to create access to one and all. We then reached out to schools and conducted workshops to introduce them to the idea of learning musical instruments as part of music lessons in school. We had guests from Julliard School, New York, who conducted several workshops in schools along with FSM mentors and teachers, to deliver the magic of creating music together, and inspiring others, to bring these opportunities to students in schools as part of the programme. The journey commenced in 2012 with three schools in Mumbai and is now expanded to 200 schools across 20 cities offering music education to more than 75,000 students.

A school band performs at the Band-It Festival 2018
A school band performs at the Band-It Festival 2018

What about the Band-it Festival? How did it get started, and what was the initial response from music-loving youngsters?
Band-It is a platform for all students to perform and experience the joy of making music together and performing on a professional platform. The whole idea is to offer exposure and experience to students in an environment where they can bond with other students across schools and experiment with different genres of music and instruments. We encourage all kinds of bands to participate in Band-It. They could be Indian classical bands, fusion bands, rock bands, jazz bands, etc. The thrill of performing in front of an enthralling audience for young musicians brings in tremendous confidence and infuses them with energy and enthusiasm to be creative in whatever they do to make it to top ten bands list of the country. Given the response, we have added various categories like solo singing, choir, solo instrumental, as well. While learning is essential, performing regularly helps you apply your learning and keep getting better at what you do.

How did the idea of partnering with the regular schools come up? Is the response encouraging in proportion to the efforts and the investment that you make?
We think every school, every child in every school must get exposure to music. Partnering with all schools opens up opportunities to one and all. Our continuous efforts have given us great results year on year. While we started with 50 bands in year one, Band-It had 100 bands in year two and we are looking at over 500 participants this year. Our constant efforts have also been supported by various well-wishers like Faber Castell, Gibson, Furtados, Kidzania and many other companies to help expand the reach of the festival.

Tell us about the methodology you follow in the selection process, and in identifying the “best” musical talent in the country.
Given that we have expanded our reach to eight cities we have invited bands, soloist and choirs across the country to send their videos to us for the first round of eliminations. The shortlisted bands, soloist and choirs will perform in the regional rounds that will be conducted in all eight cities. The top 10 bands across the cities will be invited to Mumbai for the final round of Band-It finale. Before the finale the top 10 bands will be mentored by professionals from the industry on playing together, performance tips, brushing up on finer playing techniques, etc. We also have last year’s winners, Chaos Rift of Euro School, Airoli, who will open the Band-It 2019 Festival. Our special invitees are two NGOs, Aseema and Akshaypatra (Hyderabad) students who will also perform on this platform.

Where will the grand finale be held, this year? How much is the prize money offered to the winners?
The grand finale will be held at Bal Gandharva Auditorium, Bandra, this year. We are offering prizes worth more than 5 lakhs to all winners in addition to give-aways and certificates to all participants and schools that have auditioned for this Festival. The winners will also record their album in the studio and their videos will be promoted on YouTube by FSM. They will be offered an opening performance at Band-It 2020.

The Teenager Today wishes you every success in the grand musical festival. We look forward to working with you in the coming years.