Introducing art music to the lay person through public performances

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by Shirish Malhotra on Monday, January 6, 2014

Arts, Media & Entertainment

Session type

Technical level


To suggest a new approach for art musicians and artists in general to reach out to and engage new audiences through public performances.


This session will explain how we as art musicians have to attempt to engage audiences (both existing and the uninitiated) more through our music, by positioning it as approachable, interesting and fun.
The culture of "busking" has always been prevalent in Western countries, and highly qualified and respected musicians can with dignity busk in subways without being looked upon with disdain as "beggars". However in India, society has never accepted street performance as a valid way of presenting ones art.
Last year, in the middle of Churchgate station at 6 pm, myself and 5 other brass/wind players and a percussionist teamed up to inaugurate the "National Streets for Performing Arts", an NGO that helps musicians to perform legitimately at railway stations. However, monetary offerings are not accepted, simply because the focus of the initiative is to give back, not to take.
My approach, was to perform a setlist of pieces which included music that I wanted to present to the public, along with fun arrangements of music that they could already relate to. In this way, one earns the goodwill of the layman, and encourages him to be open to listen to things that he may not be yet acquainted with, such as Bach, or Piazzolla, or even a folk tune from another culture.
This year, we are repeating the same lineup but at four railway stations, and we have two international musicians joining us, one an Alumnus of the Manhattan School of Music. The idea is to bridge the gaps between the musicians and the listeners, by reaching out welcoming them. The reason why classical music, jazz, and other art music forms are waning in popularity is because the layman feels alienated by the atmosphere, pricing, and etiquette seen at such concerts. The only way to have new audiences is to seek them out.
A similar trend can be seen in the appearance of many break dancing troupes in the city who hone their skills and perform in public spaces where they hang out, or in the appearance of licensed graffiti art all over the metros. Music still has some catching up to do!


An interest in the encouragement of the study and appreciation of performing arts!

Speaker bio

Shirish Malhotra is a multiinstrumentalist (saxophone, clarinet, flute, violin, guitar etc) who had trained in Western Classical Music and played in all India's major orchestras before crossing over into more mainstream genres to bring his sensibilities to wider audiences.
Shirish Malhotra has received scholarships to study his main instrument (the flute) in China, Austria, and the US. He also was a top 12 finalist in the YouTube Symphony Orchestra in the year 2012, the only finalist from India.
Shirish was invited by Carnegie Hall in 2012 to New York City and Saratoga Springs to attend workshops and lectures that focussed on engaging new audiences to art music in particular, and the arts in general.