Daily Practice, love for craft is key – Vaishnavi Sharma

Lucknow: Vaishnavi Sharma has fast earned a reputation as a Pianist, Singer, One Man Performer, Composer, Scorer and above all a Freelancer. She has mastered the art of hitting the right note on the piano at the right time. Having performed on several stages, she inspires youngsters to take up music as a career seriously. She speaks to The Lucknow Tribune.

1.Tell us a little about yourself?

I was born and brought up in Lucknow by my parents, Late. Rajesh Kumar Sharma and Manju Sharma. Being the only child of my parents, I have been into the musical atmosphere since I opened my eyes as my father himself was a senior and renowned musician in the city. I stepped into the world of music at the age of 5, when I gave my first performance as a vocalists.

So basically, I can say that music is in my genes. I have been teaching piano to the kids of the most reputed families here like Sahara Pariwar India, Gold Rush Tata, Ada Chicken, Royal Cafe, City Club etc. from over past 6 years, have performed at various platforms including Phoenix Palassio, Lucknow.

  1. Diana Krall, Elton John, Richard Clayderman and Brian Silas among other greats all have a story to playing a piano? What’s yours?

Okay, first of all, Diana Krall, Elton John, Richard Clayderman, Brian Silas etc. all these are legends and I am working hard to reach at that level someday. Talking about my journey of piano, I started my music life as a vocalist. From getting trained and mentored by my father initially to getting enrolled at Bhatkhande Deemed University, Lucknow at the age of 10, that is how my training of Indian Classical Vocals was all about. While I was getting trained in Indian Classical Vocals at Bhatkhande, my father one day took me to a friend of his, Mr. Gulrez Deen, who was a pianist and I started taking piano lessons from him and completed Grade Initial and Grade 1 in Keyboards from Trinity College London under his guidance. Then I started persuing further grades in Keyboards and all the grades in Piano under the guidance of another teacher, Mr. Pankaj Srivastava. While learning both Indian Classical Vocals and Piano, my interest and attention somehow had been more towards the piano. That’s when I decided that I want to be a pianist and also it was my father’s dream to see me as a pianist. Another reason for choosing piano was that I wanted to do something different. I always used to see that everyone especially females were more into vocals and there was no female into the instruments. Now  that’s what I wanted to do and so I chose Piano.

  1. What’s your training been like?

As I told, I started my journey of piano under the guidance of Sir Gulrez Deen. During my days of training under him, I remember, how Sir Deen used to dictate every chord and keys of any random piece that we used to ask as if  he had an Encyclopedia of Music open in his mind. Then, there was his favourite stick, whom he had named as ‘Samjhavan Lal’ which was used to scare us when we didn’t practice. The best memory it was. And then another best memory was when Sir Deen asked me to start teaching my juniors at the training centre.

Then, talking about my second teacher, Sir Pankaj Srivastava, I should say that whatever I am today is all because of him. From shaping my practical techniques to building a strong foundation theoretically, he actually taught me what piano is all about. I remember, when I used to learn from him, he always used to say that its you who has to complete the lesson, I won’t help you in everything because if I will help then what will you learn and then what’s the point of your parents sending you to me?  I am only here to help you out in enhancing the details and giving the final touches to the pieces and that’s what made my skills both practical and theory strong. His words of encouragement and moreover his believe in me has always been my strength and power.

Talking about my father, my training sessions with him were the best. He used to be as a strict mentor with me and not a father during the practice sessions. From picking my minor errors to appreciating my stuff, he had taught me a lot. After his demise, it was my mom, Mrs. Manju Sharma who supported me. From taking me to the classes to coordinating with my teachers, she has always been there. Although, she isn’t into music, still she played the role of a teacher by sitting, encouraging and listening to my music throughout my practice sessions. And still she does the same.

  1. As a woman playing at one of the largest malls in town, is there a challenge?

No, being a woman I don’t see any challenge. But talking as an artist, a life of an artist if full of challenges and I think that’s the only beauty of the artist life because challenges are the only thing that inspire an artist every single day to get up and give your best. It is said that ‘Practice makes a man perfect’ similarly, ‘Challenges make an artist perfect’.  Secondly, talking about the challenge, there is one thing that I think is the biggest challenge for all every artist and that is no matter whatever mood we are in, we have to face the audience with a smile on our face.

Also, God Forbid, if any trade happens in my family, and I as an artist has given a commitment to perform somewhere at the very same day, then I will have to go and perform no matter what and this goes with all other artists as well. Whereas, for normal people we see that if something like this happens, they are like, Oh I can’t work for next 5 days or 10 days. As an artist, I think that once we get into our performance arena, our soul is no more ours. It’s the audience’s soul. Our heart doesn’t beat for ourselves but the audience.

  1. Tell us about your music interests?

Well, when it comes to my music interests, I like to listen all kinds of music because I believe, to be a good musician, you need to be a good listener first. You need to listen more and more and learn from the different genres of music, be it Western Classical, Indian Classical, Indian Folk, Jazz, Blues, Rock and Pop, Funk etc. If talking about the piano, I like to listen the symphonies and melodies of Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Chopin and pianist of the modern era like Yanni, Ming Freeman, Yiruma, Richard Clayderman, Raashi Kulkarni etc.

When it comes to western music, I am fond of some world class bands  like Queen, Michael Learns to Rock, Westlife etc.and some Indian bands like The Local Train, The Yellow Diary, Parvaaz etc.

At an individual level for both western music and Indian classical music, Lionel Richie, George Benson, Michael Jackson, Celine Dion, Richard Marx, John Denver etc. and Indian and Pakistani Artists like RD Burman especially for his rhythm section which is evergreen, Zubin Mehta for his harmonies and symphonies, Amit Trivedi, AR Rehman, Mithoon, Jeet Ganguly, KK, Mohit Chauhan, Vishal Dadlani, Pandit Ajoy Chakraborty, Kaushiki Chakraborty, Kavish, Sajjad Ali etc. are my favourites.

I am also personally very fond of Indian Folk music, be it Rajasthani Folk, Gujarati etc.

  1. Your biggest inspirations when it comes to the piano?

Okay, so when I was at the initial stage of learning piano, my father used to tell me a lot about the artists. One day, he was listening to a pianist, who was playing marvellous with his entire orchestra of 52 people and I was just fascinated by him. I mean the kind of music he was playing, the was his facial expressions were and the he was connecting and coordinating with his orchestra everything was just so subtle and graceful. That pianist was none other than the world class Greek Pianist Yanni. From that day till now, Yanni has my heart. Then there is an Indian American Pianist named Raashi Kulkarni, whom I admire a lot.

  1. How do you see the music scene in your city and at the independent music circuit?

 Talking about the music scene, I should say that Indian classical music is doing its best here in Lucknow. But when it comes to western music, I think Lucknow lacks somewhere. I mean, I look for national hookups and as compared to other regions, Lucknow and its people need to be aware and know that what actually western music is all about. I think, Lucknow needs some good events and band performances for its people where they will know and learn about western music. Currently, Repertwhar Festival organises a brilliant music fest every year, which is actually a place to enjoy best of the bands of the nation and their music. Coming to the individual level, I think artists and musicians here are really working hard but are not supported and are being brought down by the mentality of the people not only here but all over the state. For example, if people ask me that what do I do, and I tell them that I am a pianist, then the reply I get is that its good that you are a pianist but what else you do? How do you earn and  all this makes me very sad. I mean people here are still not coming up with the terms that a musician and an artist is self employed. They have this mentality of people working in 9 to 5 jobs and think that it is the only way to earn and rest other things are just secondary. But people should know, that musician and an artist works 100 times harder and can earn far better than a normal person doing 9 to 5 job. Secondly, the choice of music which people have here is affecting a lot of musicians. I mean people demand for those same peppy Bollywood numbers and then the musician is bounded to perform it. Such things are the matter of serious concern for the musicians and artists.

  1. Any plans on having yourpersonal album?

Yeah, I am in process of doing an album with a national repute music director.

  1. Any collaborations that you look forward to?

Well, if I get a chance, I would love to collaborate with Raashi Kulkarni, an Indian American Pianist someday.

  1. Messages to youngsters who want to master the art of piano ?

I would only say, that music needs a lot of dedication, hard work and patience. Don’t take any shortcut to reach the goal. The most essential thing is to make your roots and foundations strong. Secondly, make music your daily life. Eat with it, wake up with it, walk with it but don’t take it as a burden but make it your friend. Listen to good music more and more because the  more you listen the more perfect you ear training will be. And lastly, do not forget to practice every single day even if you are done with your courses and are at the master level, still practice daily. I still practice daily even after completing all my courses and everything. Your practice sessions doesn’t have to be an hour long or so. Practice for just 15 minutes but those 15 minutes should be full of dedication and no distractions.

  1. Best places to learn piano?

In Lucknow, there are institutes such as Melody and Harmony, Lucknow School of Music, Arya Institute of Performing arts which are some of the best. One can also take private lessons from the individual pianists here. Rest there are number of colleges in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore like Delhi School of Music, True School of Music and Sound Ideaz in Mumbai, KM conservatory in Chennai and The Bangalore Conservatory in Bangalore.

According to me, one can be a freelance pianist, a composer and an arranger after getting trained in piano.


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