Friday, March 5, 2010
FR. NIXON D'SILVA: ON A HIGH NOTE
FR. NIXON D'SILVA: ON A HIGH NOTE
He has established a Music School in Curchorem and has four albums under his belt. He was recently felicitated by Dalgado Konknni Akademi at the Dusrem Konknni (Romi Lipi) Sahit’ya & Sonvskruti Sommelon for his contribution to music. Walter Menezes catches up with Fr. Nixon D’Silva, Director of Fr. Agnel’s School of Music & Performing Art.
After fifteen long years of formation in the seminary when he finally said Yes to Jesus in 2000, the theme on his ordination day was: Make me a sweet melody, O Lord!
And ever since that day, for Fr. Nixon D’Silva, a young priest from Navelim of the Society of Pilar, life has been precisely that: a sweet melody! In 2003, he released his first album, Shirya Laira at the 3rd Asian Youth Day in Bangalore and three years later followed it up with his second offering, Francis, A Man In A Hurry.
‘Shirya Laira is all about praise and worship and reflections of one’s own life while Francis, A Man In A Hurry, is on the life of St. Francis Xavier, patron saint of our society. Laced with commentaries, this album is the product of a play we had staged during the Exposition in 2004,’ Fr. Nixon informed.
Second album apart, 2006 is one year Fr. Nixon would always remember. Hand-picked by the Goa Province to head a mission of a different kind altogether, he packed his few belongings and, with his violin and his guitar in tow, headed down south and on September 4, 2006 established Fr. Agnel’s School of Music & Performing Arts in Curchorem.
‘Yes, I had my doubts when I set forth,’ he confided. ‘But they soon vanished. In the first year, I was amazed at the response. We had 140 students on our rolls! Today we have around 150 students learning violin, keyboards, guitar and drums. Some of the parents who accompany their children have joined in too. Rather than sitting out, waiting for their kids to finish, these parents are making optimum use of their spare time,’ he added.
Today, the school attracts students of all communities not only from Curchorem but from other places like Rivona, Tilamol, Kepem, Assolda and Sanguem. Classes are held in the evenings from three to six and the school assisted by six dedicated teachers, follow the Trinity College syllabus. Fr. Nixon is all praise for the students who learn the intricacies of the instruments in temporary premises located at Kakoda.
‘Music schools require a different set of classes and I feel for my students who work very hard, ignoring the difficulties they face because of classroom constrains. My superiors are seized of the matter and we may soon have a school building of our own,’ Fr. Nixon disclosed.
[Fr. Nixon being felicitated by Curchorem MLA, Shyam Saterdekar]
If the fruits of hard work are any indicator, then Fr. Agnel’s School of Music & Performing Arts has plenty of them in its kitty. Three of its students who represented their respective schools won prizes at the Talent Search Contest organized by Department of Art and Culture, Govt. of Goa, under the ‘violin’ category. At the Trinity College of Music exams also, the school has been consistently securing cent percent results since inception. Valerie Mascarenhas (2007) and Clint Fernandes (2008) topped the Trinity College results in Goa under Grade I Violin and Grade II Violin respectively while last year, Anjos Joseph just missed by a whisker to be on top under Grade II Keyboards. Elsewhere, the students are already proving to be valuable assets in the choirs and annual gatherings of their respective parishes and schools.
Fr. Nixon admits that there are no takers for the blowing instruments. When asked what could be the reason, he said, ‘Students have this wrong notion that blowing instruments are only meant for funerals and feasts. They do not know the depth of these instruments or the wonders they can work upon them. We have to change their mindset. This will take some time. Besides, nowadays we hardly see any commercial band making use of these blowing instruments. How will our children be inspired to use them?’
Perhaps this explains why Fr. Nixon invited Goa’s celebrated musician, Braz Gonsalves to perform at the First Annual Day of the school. Braz mesmerized an entire audience on his soprano sax but for the students and their parents, blowing instruments are yet to catch their fancy and their attention.
At the Third Annual Day to be held on Sunday, March 7, 2010 at Ravindra Bhavan, Curchorem, Fr. Nixon plans to introduce Goff, a Goan folk dance before the audience and then follow it up by making folk dances a part of the curriculum too from next year onwards.
[The students and teachers of Music School]
When I caught up with Fr. Nixon last week, a group of his students were busy rehearsing the Goff as they moved in and out of the circle, conscious of the design their saffron and white sheets of cloths were forming above them, while simultaneously dancing to the strains of chandr udela, go baye....Nandager aiz babu zala…aaz nach nachum-ia, goff ami khellum-ia…chandr udela..
Unlike the title of his second album, Fr. Nixon is a man who is never in a hurry, not where music is concerned. Strong in composition and production, he sits down to compose only when he is in the ‘flow’ or feels strongly ‘inspired’. ‘Everything comes from Him. It is His Spirit which inspires me. Sometimes I marvel. Is this from me? I ask,’ he told me with a humble heart.
In the thick and thin of establishing a new school in 2006, Fr. Nixon also released another album, this time in Konkani, Somudai Zai a compilation of basic Christian community songs to be sung during the meetings. Last year, at the Annual Day, Pilar Fathers Production brought out his fourth album, Where Can I Go, Lord?
‘This album is based on scriptures and the title song, Where Can I Go, Lord? literally became my passport for a performance in Dubai last October. Ellison Fernandes, a NRI Goan of Siolim had picked up my album in Mapusa and so touched was he by my song that Country Cousins, an organization he is intimately associated with in Dubai, arranged my trip. Alexyz, Goa’s famous cartoonist was also invited,’ Fr. Nixon informed.
When asked what it is that attracts so many young – and old – students to Fr. Agnel’s School of Music & Performing Arts, Fr. Nixon told me that there is no mantra. ‘On the first day of school, every year, I make it a point to show them a small power-point presentation of Tony Melendez (Toe Jam) of Nicaragua who has no arms but still plays the guitar with his feet. At the end of the presentation, I tell my students: If a man who has no arms can play so well, what about us, we who have hands as well?’
I did not ask Fr. Nixon about the response of his students. But I am sure it would be something like this: Yes, we can. Yes, we will!
[Note: Fr. Agnel's School of Music & Permorming Arts, Curchorem, a school which Fr. Nixon D'Silva established, is celebrating its Annual Day on Sunday, 7th March 2010.
An edited version of this article appears on Gomantak Times today, ie 06.03.2010. Goa-world.com team wishes Fr. Nixon D'Silva, the students and teachers all the very best on the occasion of its Annual Day]