I needed a break from music

I needed a break from music

If you’ve read any of my other pieces for The Michigan Daily, you’re well aware that I practice Carnatic music, a form of classical Indian music, outside of school. Carnatic music has always been an integral part of my identity, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have been able to pursue it for the past 15 years. It’s been a form of expression, culture and, most importantly, fun for me — I would never in a million years quit pursuing it.

Or at least that’s what I thought.

In March 2020, the novel coronavirus pandemic hit, and everything shifted to a virtual medium. My classes, social gatherings, club meetings and vocal lessons were now taking place over Zoom. Being able to attend classes and club meetings in my pajamas was a silver lining I was able to embrace. Moreso, I have my fair share of long-distance relationships with family and friends from around the world, so limiting social gatherings to late-night FaceTime calls, movie nights using Netflix Party and virtual game nights wasn’t a new concept for me. But taking Carnatic vocal lessons over Zoom was something I was not prepared for. 

When the pandemic hit, I figured music was going to keep me sane. Of course, I planned to dedicate all my free time to music. It was nice having more time to practice, and I was excited at the thought of being able to learn more than I usually would during a non-pandemic year. However, the exact opposite occurred. 

I think back to my very first vocal lesson with my guru using Zoom. In general, Carnatic music is extremely detail-oriented. Every nuance must be executed with extreme clarity and precision. Whole sentences we would speak to each other would get cut off due to poor connectivity, Zoom glitches, or other external factors, so being able to pinpoint exactly how my guru was singing a certain phrase became a daunting task. He was patient of course, repeating every phrase multiple times, but even still, it was difficult to pick up exactly what he was singing. In-person, I’m able to pick up a phrase almost instantly and sing it back to my guru. However, over Zoom, he had to repeat himself multiple times, and sometimes when I would sing back a phrase to him, there would be a lag, which made my guru think he needed to repeat himself again, resulting in us singing over each other, then stopping, then one of us awkwardly starting to sing again. This vicious cycle took place after every phrase we learned. Even my guru stated his frustrations with this system. When asked how teaching over Zoom affected his ability to teach, he mentioned that having to repeat himself multiple times in hopes that even just the basic outline of a phrase would stick with a student was draining. This task was especially draining for him with the beginner and intermediate students. I’m fortunate to have had 15 years of training under my guru, so I’m a little more experienced. But for the younger students who are trying to grasp the intricacies of Carnatic music, it’s almost impossible. 

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