Kirti Srivastava, Former Odissi Student and Principal of Hawking STEAM Charter Elementary

Kirti Srivastava reflects the power of the arts and the influence and responsibility of an educator. The balance she has struck between her professional career and her deep, life-long passion for world music and dance serves as a model for those working in either field. As a champion of the arts, she makes a meaningful impact in the lives of the children with whom she works. She is our hero. She is an important reason children in the San Diego area are singing the stories and playing the music of cultures and traditions that reflect the heartbeat of humanity.

Meet our second of three heroes, former Odissi dance students, principal of Hawking STEAM Charter Elementary, world music advocate and artist, Kirti Srivastava.

(1)   What is your connection to world music?
As a first generation American, born to two artists from India (my father a visual artist and singer and my mother a dancer, actress and sitar player), world music and dance runs through my veins! My parents held weekly sangeets (musical gatherings) and satsangs (gatherings for spiritual discussion) long before my birth — so it was just a way of life for me.

I have fond memories of learning about different forms of music. I still recall my first introduction to jazz. I was in the 6th grade when my older brother Vikas handed a mix tape to me with John Coltrane on Side A and Miles Davis on Side B. He said: “This is all you need to know.”

As an Odissi dance student with the Center for World Music in high school, I was able to attend classical Indian house concerts at Purna and Gopa Patnaik’s house. I also attend concerts at Pt. Sri Ravi Shankar’s house! I still cannot attend a concert and feel as fully satisfied as I did those days, sitting just feet away from world-renowned musicians.

(2)   What exciting musical things go on at your school and with your students?
Music is life at Hawking STEAM Charter; we integrate song and dance into every learning opportunity possible – whether the kindergarteners are singing about ecosystems and habitats or the 6th graders are rehearsing a rap of character traits. Our goal is to help adults and children realize that music is the rhythm of life, and just as we seek to find melody in music, we learn to find harmony in life. While teachers integrate music throughout the day, we also have dedicated music programming during school hours. Half of the week, students are learning to play piano through online keyboarding software that connects to their piano keyboards. This teaches them the fundamental knowledge of music and notes. The other half of the week, students study tabla, a classical Indian drum. This class allows them to take what they have learned from piano and apply it to drumming. They also learn how the hand is able to make various notes on the drum. Both courses help students fine tune their mathematical skills while exercising creativity through the making of their own musical pieces.

(3)   How do you see world music programs impact your students?
While music, in general, has given our artistic students a voice in the academic arena, world music opens doors to learning opportunities in the study of geography and world cultures. It also helps students develop respect and empathy for people from cultures worldwide. The Center for World Music often brings guest artists to the school. The professional musicians share their gifts with the students and demonstrate how musicians are able to support themselves through their art form.

(4)   In what ways do you feel the Center contributes to San Diego?
The Center for World Music’s programs in schools not only nurture the future generations to understand and honor the role of music in cultures around the world, but they also bring awareness to the cultural and academic benefits of integrating music in schools. I witness students facing the challenges of learning to play instruments. In their music classes, student grapple to understand musical concepts and concentrate for extended amounts of time to play the right notes. I see the very same attitude carry over in their academic courses. Similarly, students’ performances build the grit for public presentations that we promote in our Project Based Learning teaching model.  By working with the school system, the CWM contributes to the larger San Diego community because students are continuously applying strategies learned through music to their daily lives.

(5)   What more can the CWM do to contribute to the student experience at Hawking Charter School and schools across San Diego County?
We would love to bring more monthly assemblies featuring artists/dancers/musicians from around the world. Ideally, we would like a package that will help schools like Hawking Charter afford and access more assemblies if they commit to a robust yearlong schedule.

Thank you, Kirti Srivastava.

Please join Kirti Srivastava and support programs for San Diego children in most danger of losing their access to cross-cultural music education.