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Morning Sun
  • Classical Indian musician visits PHS

  • West met east Thursday as Pittsburg High School band students attended a master class conducted by internationally known Indian classical musician Sandip Burman.

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  • West met east Thursday as Pittsburg High School band students attended a master class conducted by internationally known Indian classical musician Sandip Burman.
    A native of Durgapur, India, he began playing the tabla, a small drum, at the age of 6, and later took up the sitar as well.
    “You won’t find many artists playing both instruments professionally,” Burman told the students. “This is not a show-off.”
    Burman has played with artists from George Harrison of the Beatles to Ravi Shankar and jazz greats Jerry Goodman, Paul McCandless, Steve Smith, Dave Pietro and Paul Bollenback.
    As he does before all his performances, Burman sat for a time by himself in the PHS auditorium, tuning his sitar and tabla.
    “I need this time for myself,” he said.
    Then he began to perform, first on the sitar, and invited questions from the students.
    One asked him how long he had been playing the sitar.
    “A very long time,” Burman replied. “I’m still learning.”
    Cooper Neil, PHS band instructor, asked how much of his work is improvisation.
    “I take a theme that is memorized, and how I present it to you is improvised,” Burman said, playing briefly for a moment. “You are hearing that very peacefully, and how perfect the note  has to be, how perfect the rhythm, to give you that feeling. Now I will add improvisation. Does it sound richer now?”
    Neil also asked him how long the sitar, based on an ancient Indian instrument called the veena, has been in its current form.
    “For those things you will have to Google it,” Burman said, smiling. “I’m a player.”
    After playing the sitar, he went on to the tabla. Here again, he said, there are memorized patterns that are combined with improvisation.
    Burman currently tours about 170 days out of the year, and is wrapping up a U.S. tour. After two more U.S. performances, he will head to Canada and eventually make it back home to India.
    Another student asked what motivated him to play.
    “I don’t know what to do anything else,” Burman said with another smile.
    “I could get a metropolitan job making coffee. That’s simple, I think I could do it.”
    Neil said that, when he heard Burman was available, he knew he wanted his students to have the experience of learning from him.
    “This broadens the cultural platform students are used to hearing,” he said.
    “It was unbelievable,” said student Lauren Geiger. “I’m unbelievably impressed.”
    So was student Mason Bayliss.
    “It’s wonderful to have such a respected artist come and share his music with us,” Bayliss said. “This opens up our program.”

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