Written by Abighail Rocchi.
The first week laid the foundation for chanting the holy name: the importance of faith and prayer, focusing the mind and avoiding offences, and forming a relationship with the holy name.
The second week was fully practical. Three hours on the mridanga in the morning, and an hour each of karatals and harmonium in the afternoon.
The third week, with Kadamba Kanana Swami, was spent learning about the history and tradition of kirtan, and how music is part of the spiritual world. Students surveyed ISKCON’s pioneer kirtaniyas (Yamuna-devi, Acyutananda, Vishnujana Swami) and recent kirtaniyas (Govinda Swami, Aindra, and Madhava). Kadamba Kanana Swami stressed the importance of listening to the congregation and being attentive to its mood, and including everyone. Students got an opportunity to compose a melody to the maha-mantra, which they sang in the temple room the following evening.
The fourth week’s visiting teacher was Jahnavi Harrison, who took the students through readings and songs of Saranagati, by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. The week’s objectives were to (1) connect with the author by reading extracts from a biography (2) learn about songs from all six sections of Saranagati (3) feel comfortable reading Bengali transliterations and (4) discover how the songs enhance the maha-mantra. To conclude the week the students made a virtual pilgrimage to the samadhi tomb of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur via film footage, and wrote prayers of gratitude to offer to him. Each student received a packet with some dust from the floor of his chanting room and other small items. Students also heard a short class by Lokanatha Swami about the importance of proper Sanskrit pronunciation when singing. The weekend included the Radhadesh Summer festival, and students were involved: throwing colors in the Holi arena, going onstage with Lokanatha Swami and Kadamba Kanana Swami, and presenting onstage with Jahnavi what they’d learned so far.
The fifth week Krishna Ksetra Prabhu taught about sonic theory and Indian musical traditions. The practical lessons continued with regular ensemble classes and more opportunities to sing in the temple room in the evening. During all the weeks of the course, students served the community of Radhadesh by helping weed the gardens, making garlands, and sometimes cooking (an Italian student made pizza).[/acc_item]
Weeks 6 & 7
The last two weeks were busy: theory classes by Mahendra Prabhu, a home program, a wedding, a trip to Goloka Dham in Germany, the Janmastami festival, a play on Srila Prabhupada’s appearance day, and voice and harmonium classes with Hari-bhakti Prabhu. Mahendra took students through references to kirtan in the Gita, the Bhagavatam, and more. The introduction and the conclusion of the Bhagavatam are the same: hearing and chanting destroy all suffering. The soul’s natural function is to express love for and glorify Krishna, and this is kirtan!