Conservatoire of Performing Arts marks International Music Day | 05 October 2019
‘Stop everything and sing’
International Music Day (IMD) is celebrated every year on October 1. In commemoration of this, Seychelles NATION spoke to the director at the National Conservatoire of Performing Arts (NCPArts), Pierre Joseph, to learn more about this observation, how it is has been celebrated in Seychelles, as well as the challenges and milestones faced in the local music industry.
Seychelles NATION: What is International Music Day?
Pierre Joseph: IMD is one marking the decision of the International Music Council to dedicate a day to music. This was agreed in 1973 and the first day was celebrated in 1975, two years after it was agreed.
It started in European countries, as its main body is in Paris and this is where the whole idea of using music for education started. Now with more partner countries and NGOs on board, the council has members in all continents.
Countries with a stronger impact of Unesco programmes for Music in Education have gone way ahead of music as mere enjoyment.
Seychelles NATION: Is there any theme this year?
Pierre Joseph: It remains the same every year; one that aims at promoting harmony within all cultures through music.
Locally, we brainstormed ideas and decided to adopt the acronym SEAS, ‘Stop Everything And Sing’.
The idea is that we all can sing, and that singing together brings harmony!
Seychelles NATION: Why is there a day specially dedicated to celebrate music?
Pierre Joseph: Initially it was celebrated to establish the need for harmony, peace, understanding and acceptance of all cultures across the world.
That was what the International Music Council started off by doing. They wanted to foster musical diversity, build peace and understanding among people cutting across class, culture and heritage.
That was a critical period in the early 80s.
Sadly, the reasons for celebrating it today are just the same. In Seychelles, music is still regarded as a leisure activity, instead of a more creative and intellectually challenging one.
Seychelles NATION: Who should observe this day and why?
Pierre Joseph: Everybody! You know the “Feel Good” state that one reaches at times? That is the release of endorphins in the brain. Other methods are used to do that, but singing is one natural way of doing it. It’s cheaper, more fun as others can share this moment with you, and it is incredibly contagious!
Music Education experts believe that one main reason why music is in the curriculum in early childhood is exactly for that; bonding people, reducing stress, increasing creativity and encouraging trust.
We hope that by starting with schools, music teachers and musicians, the general idea of singing for all will be spread across other work places and it would then become an annual thing. Why not?
We are happy, loving and creative people. This should be very easy for us!
Seychelles NATION: How has the day been celebrated in Seychelles in the past and how was it commemorated this past Tuesday?
Pierre Joseph: Not much emphasis was devoted to IMD in the past.
We mainly had open days for parents and small recitals of our advanced students.
A lot more emphasis was put on the Fête de la Musique day which is on June 21, and was also initiated by the then French Minister for Culture in 1982, Jack Lang. Actually both days support the same idea but were launched for other reasons.
We observe both, but based on our school calendar, we chose to observe this one for singing as it is when we are most free and can bring more people together. Anyway, June seems to be already focused on public holidays and fun, so the Fête de la Musique is for bands, improvisation and free concerts!
Seychelles NATION: As the NCPArts, what are some of the challenges that have been/are faced in terms of music?
Pierre Joseph: We have limited number of staff; one per subject and no substitutes. We have no funds to recruit and it remains rather difficult to get locally qualified teachers to teach music here.
We have incredibly popular programmes, yes we do! Many schools wish to have our teachers come and work with them, but we simply cannot juggle all of that.
We are in the department of culture, yet our main focus is children and promotion of the arts, so we have fewer links with education than we ought to. Because of that, we tend to focus and fulfil the mandate of culture and promotion of the arts in general rather than education.
Seychelles NATION: What are some positive steps and what are the hopes of the NCPArts for the future of music in Seychelles?
Pierre Joseph: The NCPArts and the School of Music in particular have been instrumental in helping many students enroll on music courses in theory and practical with ABRSM as a certified body.
They have managed to attain internationally-recognised awards from Grade 1 to Diplomas for which they ought to be proud. The school is till now the only centre offering such courses and is equipped with dedicated teachers who are professionals in their fields.
In addition to the formal learning environment, we have also collaborated with local musicians whose work we have transcribed, arranged and recorded. This is where the wealth of knowledge is, and this is what we hope we can do a bit more.
This year we collaborated with John Wirtz. We thank him and admire his humble, kind nature towards our registered students.
In the future, we hope to increase the level of studies taken here for students who are keen to go further in music, to offer more general courses, locally tailored for musicians and to venture in music productions to support the local industry, especially for children.
We have held recitals of all nature, from classical to modern, and we are now venturing into digital music reproduction, and finding ways to use local influences with the aim of pushing our boundaries further. We are in constant discussion with international partners who wish to help us.
Somehow, we are hopeful that the activity for International Music Day will be a springboard for people to be encouraged to sing as a creative activity.
That alone is cause to sustain our interest for many years to come.