MusicUniv, Imparting Structured Indian Classical Music Through Schools

Painting of the Goddess Saraswati by Raja Ravi...

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Indian classical music, in both Hindustani and Carnatic traditions, are also seen as esoteric and inaccessible, especially for the economically-challenged. And this is exactly where Chennai-based MusicUniv comes in.

The idea of MusicUniv was born when investor-entrepreneur Sudhir Rao met Dr Karaikudi Subramanian, a ninth generation veena player and founder of Brhaddhvani, a centre for research in music education supported by the Ford Foundation, and started studying Carnatic vocal music in 2008 to better understand the pedagogy for teaching it. Along with the musically-accomplished Anil Srinivasan, Rao and his wife Sadhana decided to collaborate with Brhaddhvani to take the pedagogy into schools, thus, co-founding MusicUniv.

Between the three co-founders, they have a passion for classical Indian and Western music, the ability to parse the language of music and the desire to impart that musical intelligence to the next generation in a systematic and structured manner — all wrapped up in some very sharp business acumen. They have established MusicUniv as a platform to teach classical music – with a focus on Carnatic and later Hindustani classical music – through a structured and graded syllabus for children in pre-primary, primary and secondary schools.

If the prodigiously talented classical pianist Srinivasan is the heart behind MusicUniv, Rao is definitely the brains powering this initiative.

“Our research showed that eight out of 10 parents want their children to have this kind of classical music education — we wanted to be the agents of access to this,” says Rao, who also invests in start-ups in fields like education, health care, wealth care, food, retailing, renewable energy and transportation.

“I wanted to figure out a way to sensitise children in art and aesthetics on a sustainable basis, and do this for profit,” says Rao. For this, he figured he would have to work towards establishing and embedding structured music and art education as an integral part of academic discipline.

However, it was the entry of the musical and market-savvy Srinivasan – who was leading a double life as a research, analytics and consulting expert from Columbia Business School – that MusicUniv took its current form. Srinivasan is the custodian of the mission and in charge of operations and business development. But being a musician himself – he has played at New York’s Lincoln Centre, and also collaborated with Sikkil Gurucharan, U Srinivas and Lalgudi Krishnan – Srinivasan believes in the power of music in shaping our lives. For him, it goes beyond appreciating a medley of sounds “Music affects a child’s neural pathways towards a lifelong interest in learning. It helps our thoughts develop, completes our personality and allows us to live with conviction.”

His magical fingers are impressive, but what I loved best was his ability to deconstruct the intricacies and intangibles of classical music to make it more accessible for laypeople. As an entrepreneurial concept it is good one — driven by passion, easy to scale. Within the first year of its three-year pilot, 52 Chennai schools have signed up with 5,085 students. They plan to reach a million students in 10 years, taught by 5,000 trained music educators. But its success will lie in the authenticity of its methodology and implementation during scaling.

“I think of MusicUniv like a bamboo,” Srinivasan likes to say. “It’s very small in its infancy, grows very little in height, strengthening its roots. In its fifth or sixth year, it shoots up dramatically, growing as high as 60 feet. It is a tree that symbolises centred growth and continuity.”

MusicUniv’s official symbol is the bamboo.

Contact Details

MusicUniv India Pvt Ltd

123A Justice Ramaswamy Street, Kasturiba Nagar, Adyar,Chennai – 20.

Ph: +91-44-43504050

Fax: +91-44-43504932

Admin officer Ms Vijayalakshmi,

Ph: +91-44-43504050

Cell: +91-9840567913

Website :

Posted on January 11, 2012, in Art, Education and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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