- As a music teacher, I sometimes feel like an outcast in the Desi community, but music and my students continue to save me out of that rabbit hole.
Up until the end of my junior year of high school, I had prepared myself to study some type of biological science in college. I was in the “Academy of Biotechnology,” every stem-related honor society, and had started volunteering at hospitals and rehabilitation centers. I wanted to become either a pediatric or cardiothoracic surgeon. Or so I thought.
Honestly, it feels like music chose me instead of the other way around. Listening to the music of many genres and cultures molded me into who I am today, especially Indian classical and folk music. I had the privilege of being a part of NAfME’s All National Chorus in 2014. I was amazed at how many musicians all around the country were brought together by this conference, and it became very clear to me just how powerful music is. I remember breaking down in many music rehearsals and concerts, crying overwhelmed with emotion. I realized that I wanted to be a part of that for the rest of my life.
I told my parents that I wanted to major in music. “Are you sure?” they asked me. I nodded. “Really, are you sure?” they asked one more time. “Yes, I’m sure!” I replied. My family and I did not know much about music schools, how to apply, where I should apply, what I needed for auditions, what I should specialize in, etc. But the stars aligned and slowly, we figured it out. I cannot thank my family enough for their continuous support throughout this ongoing journey. They drove with me to every in-person audition, read over my college essays numerous times, and tripled checked my applications before I sent them off.
Flash forward to second-semester senior year. I had already gotten my fair share of acceptances and rejections, but the day my family and I came back from our spring break vacation, I opened a letter from the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music. It stated that I had been accepted and received a scholarship as well. At first, I was stunned. I had not seriously considered going to UM because it was so far away, I had applied just to see what would happen. I had not even visited the campus because I sent in a video audition, so I had no idea what the school was like. I am not sure why, but I felt as though the universe was guiding me towards the University of Miami. My family and I took a leap of faith and I committed to a university 1,080 miles away from home.
People would ask me why I chose music education because it is not common for Desi people to pursue the arts and/or education. I used to justify my choice with a simple ‘I like music. I like teaching. So, I put them together.’ Over time I understood that music is just different though. I would be able to teach calculus or biology if I wanted to, but music brings communities of people together. Music teaches history and culture. Music enables self-expression, and most importantly, music heals. Going into college I did not know what to expect. But I did not realize that I would fall in love with a different aspect of what I was doing every day.
My college class schedule was rigorous, and after going through the cycle of loving music, hating it, wanting to quit and being inspired again, I accepted that my musical journey will never end. There is no question that I experience self-doubt, but the person I have become so far and will grow to be would be nothing without music and for that, I am forever indebted to music. What better way to serve music than to teach others of its magic?
The children in our schools right now and our own children will be the future of our country and world. Through music, I hope to help my students connect with their authentic selves and find healthy ways to interact with the world around them. I truly love being in front of a classroom of students, and that I belong in this field.
Throughout this seemingly beautiful journey of growth, I encountered so many obstacles, one of the most hurtful ones being how my own (Desi) community devalued what I was dedicating my life to. Over and over again it was drilled into my head that a job in music education was not going to bring in money or that I needed a plan B. To be clear, no one ever goes into education for money. The education system deserved to be invested in, but that is a topic for another time. It is a complicated issue because, through unsolicited opinions and advice, uncles, aunties and even fellow peers felt that they were doing me a favor when in reality, it negatively impacted my self-esteem and confidence.
Over time, I learned to shut out the uneducated and ignorant opinions, to hold on tightly to those who supported me and started focusing on myself. But as a young adult trying to find myself, these comments were upsetting for me. I hope to shed light on how seemingly harmless comments can be disheartening. Because of these comments, there were many times that I questioned myself and my decisions and considered changing majors. I started to feel like an outcast in the Desi community and felt regret setting in. However, music and my students continued to save me out of that rabbit hole.
Now that I have graduated from college and work as a music teacher in Fairfax County, I can say with 100% confidence that I am meant to be a music teacher. I hope to encourage others to pursue their passions and not shy away from doing what they love because of “log kya kahenge.” It is time to grow, change and evolve as a community.
Disclaimer: Everything that I discuss in this blog is according to my life and has to do with personal experiences. If I offend anyone, I truly apologize, it is not my intention.
Radhika Gore (she/her), is a musician, dancer, and educator from the DMV area. She earned her Bachelor of Music in Music Education degree with a classical voice and choral pedagogy focus from the University of Miami and is currently working as an elementary general music teacher in Fairfax County Public Schools. Aside from work, Radhika likes to study Hindustani classical voice, paint, and strength train. Radhika has been learning Indian Classical dance Kuchipudi form from Kuchipudi Dance Academy since 2004 and completed her solo debut performance in June 2016. She is also an active Bhangra (Punjabi folk) dancer. During her college years, she danced on competitive collegiate, state, and independent Bhangra teams. Radhika also serves on the board of KhushDC, a social, political, and support group that serves the South Asian LGBTQIA+ community in the DMV. Instagram: @radhikavgoremusic