Shubhendra & Saskia Rao Foundation

MUSIC : every child's birthright

For Organisations

Bring music education in your school into the 21st century with our GLocalized music education.

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For Parents

Find out more about the benifits of good music education.

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For Teachers

Work with us to improve music education in the country. Follow our teacher training and teach music.

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For Students

You love music and would want to practice music every day. Contact us for Talent management & our Gurukul.

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Shubhendra and Saskia Rao Foundation

Our Vision & Mission

Our Vision

Shubhendra and Saskia Rao Foundation is a dream come true for internationally renowned artists, Pandit Shubhendra Rao and Saskia Rao-de Haas. The husband-wife duo is hailed as ‘taking Indian music into a brave new era’. The Shubhendra and Saskia Rao foundation is their way to share the knowledge they have about the power of music especially helping children to uncover their full potential.

Our vision is to make music the birthright for every child.

Music helps people interact more peacefully; increase their intellect and uplifts communities. In our opinion, music should be a part of the main curriculum of every school and considered a necessity, rather than a luxury.

We want to promote classical music, not in an isolated and elitist way, but by connecting it to today’s world. With Indian sensibility but with a global outlook. What we have learnt from and about music is what we want to share with as many people as possible and make it available to a wider spectrum of the society, especially those who do not have easy access to music. Our dream is to ensure every child has access to good music education and take pride in classical music as their own heritage.

Our Mision
Our mission is to empower and uplift people through music. Most children are unfortunately not exposed to their rich classical music heritage either at home or at school. Our mission is to revolutionize music education in schools by providing a curriculum-based teaching with a solid foundation in universal music concepts but with an Indian outlook. We will work with international experts on music education that will inspire the children.

We have created a ‘glocalized’ music education to empower the youth in our music 4all curriculum. We also organize concerts, seminars, workshops and other such events that will help people understand the power of music.

Similar to the slogan “Right to Learn” that is used for children’s education, our mission is to add music to this slogan and say, “Right to learn Music”.

The Shubhendra and Saskia Rao Foundation is a registered non-profit trust and all donations are tax deductable.

Music : By children, For children on 14th November



School notes

August 7, 2014


Delhi-based musicians Shubhendra and Saskia Rao are all set to take music education to every child.

Sitar exponent Shubhendra Rao, disciple of late Pandit Ravi Shankar, and his wife, Hindustani cellist Saskia Rao-De Haas

Sitar exponent Shubhendra Rao, disciple of late Pandit Ravi Shankar, and his wife, Hindustani cellist Saskia Rao-De Haas — a disciple of Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia — have decided to put their diverse backgrounds together for the cause of India’s children.

“Music is of course very close to our hearts and its uplifting and everything,” says Saskia, “but we feel it should play a bigger role.” She points out that music can contribute significantly in the development of a child, and studies in neuroscience and psychology have shown this.

For Indian schools, they strongly advocate a curriculum-based music education approach, says Shubhendra. Saskia adds, “We have developed glocalised music education. It teaches Indian music but with the use of western and other methodology that has been developed over many years.”

Music education has been used in other countries to provide children with benefits beyond the seven swaras. By way of example, Saskia talks of children in countries of South America who belong to lesser privileged strata of society. “They get music in the classroom and a general formation in music and then they learn how to play music together and sing together. And these children, their whole life changes, it is an amazing system,” she says.

For Indian schoolchildren, who normally are offered popular, light or film songs in the name of music but not much classical music, Saskia adds that Indian classical music has great scope to affect lives positively. “We would love to have classical music playing a better role in their life.”

With Saskia’s training in Western classical as well as Hindustani music, and Shubhendra’s training in the guru-shishya parampara, the two hope to combine the best of these two approaches to “revolutionise” music education in the country.

“Music is the first language any child is exposed to. Every mother sings to a child even while it is in the womb. The first smile you get from a baby is in response to sound,” says Shubhendra. “And music is all about sound.”
Listening is a major component of learning. The mother’s voice and other sounds are among the first elements of an infant’s education. “Somehow, we tend to lose that aspect because school teaches only A-B-C. Why don’t we teach Sa-Re-Ga-Ma at that stage,” asks Shubhendra. This purely academic approach denies students the opportunity to build faculties of the brain that music can provide, he feels. “For example, there is rhythm in everything we do, in our heartbeat, the way we talk…”

There is also the aspect of learning languages, says Saskia. “For children exposed to music, their language acquisition skills and way of imitating and learning in general is much improved. The research is in.”
Music education, and not just for the elite, is the need of the hour, feels the couple.
The chance to learn music is often seen as depending on talent, says Saskia. This is a disease. So many children are told you can’t sing.” However, only a small percentage of people actually cannot sing, she emphasises. And even if they are not talented in the conventional way, “they deserve a chance,” says Shubhendra. “And music is not just raga or tala. It should be fun, like throwing a ball.”

Besides, remarks Saskia, when a child is not excellent at maths, would a teacher say, “You should not learn maths,” and if the child is not good at reading, would the teacher say, “Don’t learn the A-B-C”?

“To create a better society tomorrow we need a wholesome education, and how do you do that without addressing the finer sensibilities,” asks Shubhendra. (The launch of the Shubhendra & Saskia Rao Foundation will be followed by the screening of “Joys of Freedom”, a film based on music composed by the Raos. August 13, India International Centre, 40, Max Mueller Marg, New Delhi, 6 p.m.)


Saskia and Shubhendra have been developing a curriculum for music education from the nursery level to high school. Though the thought has been with them for years, they have intensified efforts to crystallise the syllabus over the last eight months. They also feel that at the pre-primary stages, specialised music teachers need not be recruited and offer a training syllabus for teachers already in the system, “to become music ambassadors.”

For the past month, they have been teaching about 120 children from the Nizamuddin Basti as part of the Hope project.

THE New Indian Express

Tune the Mind for Music in Education
27th July 2014

Music education is a necessity rather than a luxury. In my view, cutting music education in favour of other subjects actually deprives a child of the learning the tools that will help him succeed in not only the subjects taught in school, but also in his general listening skills and social interaction. This has made me think about the importance of music education for children in our schools.

Music is the only universal language in this world. It is the first language that every child on this planet understands—the singing of the mother to the unborn child in her womb is the beginning of understanding the power of music. The first smile, the singing of every parent to their child, the rocking movement employed by parents as they are putting to sleep—everything has music in it. Even before a child is able to speak any language, it has begun to understand the language of music. A beautiful song brings a smile into the child's face; the rhythmic movement of the rocking calms it to sleep. Why then do we not give music its rightful place in our lives? When I hear people singing the national anthem, I feel like closing my ears because each singer has his/her own pitch that he/she is following, happily oblivious to the others or the accompanying instruments. Of course, those who are exposed to music because of family or the parents ensuring that music is learnt will be able to do it and do it pretty well but what about those who have not learnt music? There is no dearth talent in our country. Why are we not able to utilise this talent to create a society that loves music more? I, for one, strongly believe in the importance of music in parenting. Music can play a strong role in a child's character development. The first 8-10 years are the most important, as, in these years, music becomes a part of every child's growth. The first 4-5 ears are spent at home. There should be some good music played all the time, even if one feels that the child is not attentive. The child is absorbing everything sub-consciously and learning even while paying direct attention to the music. Whether the child is eating, playing with toys or doing nothing, it is important to keep the music playing in the background.

The next phase in our life is when we start going to schools. Why can't we have an education policy that will nourish the gift of music rather than take us away from it? Just like a child learns that A, B, C, D etc are the alphabets of English, why can't the child learn Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha and Ni? Why can't we develop a systematic learning of music similar to the way we learn other languages?

Most urban schools have 2-3 music teachers—a vocalist, a percussionist and a keyboard player or guitarist. The role of these teachers is to ensure that the children are able to sing a group song on Independence Day or Republic Day celebrations at their school. The percussionist is supposed to teach a bit of tabla, dholak and drums. The keyboard player is supposed to teach the child an instrument called Casio (a popular keyboard brand) for accompaniment at school celebrations. Is this teaching music at school? Music as a subject should be made compulsory and it has to be taught from first day of a child's schooling.


20 Aug 2014

Inauguration of the Shubhendra and Saskia Rao Foundation took music education forward while Madhyama's Odissi Recital dedicated to Zohra Sehgal showcased the talent of a young dancer, reports manjari sinha

Renowned Sitarist Shubhendra Rao and his Cellist wife Saskia De Haas, who has pioneered the Indian Cello, have performed duets at many prestigious music festivals around the world. Shubhendra is a worthy disciple of Pt Ravi Shankar, groomed in the traditional Guru-Shishya Parampara and Saskia studied Hindustani music under Pt Hari Prasad Chaurasia as well as Western classical music at the top institutes in the West, CODARTS and University of Amsterdam.

With a firm belief that music is every child's birthright, the dynamic duo have founded the Shubhendra and Saskia Rao Foundation with an aim to make music (available) for all and sensitize people to understand how music can enrich their lives and help them being human. With their complementary musical backgrounds, they conceived Music 4 All, a music education system based on the rich heritage of Indian Classical Music, but with a global and contemporary approach. Sonal Mansingh inaugurated the Shubhendra and Saskia Rao Foundation and launched their website at the IIC Annex last week.

Speaking on the occasion, Shubhendra said "Music is life and life is music for us. We were born in different cultures but destiny and our passion for music brought us together and the Shubhendra and Saskiia Rao Foundation is being born today. As musicians we feel strongly about the role that music can play in today's world. Our emotions, our intellect and our body all connect through music. When children learn music from a young age, they develop into stronger and more sensitive human beings."

Saskia explained her idea of Glocalised Music Education, which is a combination of global and local. "We use internationally applied methods to teach music in an Indian context." Saskia also shared her experience of educating the young girls of Nizamuddin Basti in a school run by the Hazrat Inaayat Khan Trust. This was followed by the screening of The Joys of Freedom, a short film with music by Shubhendra and Saskia Rao and an interactive session about music education. The enthusiastic audience, along with Sonal Mansingh wished the Foundation a bright and fruitful future.

Sunday Times

Aug 17 2014 : The Times of India (Delhi)

For Nizamuddin's young voices, ragas are the great leveller
New Delhi

“Adaab. Salam. Hello. Namaste. Aap ka naam kya hai? Aap kaise hain?“ All set to Raga Bhopali and sung by a bunch of severely disadvantaged Muslim children of the Nizamuddin basti.
Since last Saturday , the city's best known Hindustani classical cellist Saskia Rao de Haas has been teaching music to the children at Hope Project, an open education system for the basti's girls and young women. From ages 3 to 20, some are orphans, some children of single parents and others are first generation of learners.

But from sur to tala, choir singing to polyphony , they are learning to enjoy and create music. No complicated bandish, no structured classes, no highfalutin lectures on the greatness of cultural inheritance, just plain simple music that anyone can relate to.

“There is something strange about our music education--if you can't sing or play an instrument perfectly you are told that music is not for you. We don't do that to math or English, do we?
Everyone can get it, it is up to the teacher,“ says de Haas, a Dutch, married to Indian sitarist Shubhendra Rao.

There are four groups of children at the school getting to `play' with music twice every week. The youngest are in kindergarten and the oldest is 20. The basti is a place that rings with music quite often. This is the home of qawwali and naat. But any kind of musical education is a rare thing for the poorer children, especially girls. And of course the settlement has pockets of deep conservatism.

“Some voices did object to teaching of music but we convinced them that for children from distressed homes music can work as a great healer,“ says Sa miur Rahman, executive director the project. “And in sufism, music has universal appeal across communities.“
This basti is the oldest quarter of west Nizamuddin. It is not well-heeled as the other parts of Nizamuddin, and there are pockets of extreme poverty where the slums exist and many migrants are homeless. Hope Project's work covers children from these homes where most people are employed in menial jobs or seek alms at the dargah. The project was begun by Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan, a Sufi missionary and the brother of Noor Inayat, the plucky British spy who was caught and killed by the Nazis.

It is in a room dedicated to the memory of Noor that the children are having their music classes. They have had just three classes so far and have shown remarkable improvement. It is not an easy thing to figure out that sa has a placed fixed in the musical order of things, that a taal cannot change every second but that is where de Haas's skills as an educator come in. In the west, music education is an established field and it allows trained musicians like de Haas to deal with amusia, a disorder commonly known as tone deafness.

“It is okay to start silly , use games to teach music. In India we have great music, a great guru shishya teaching system and great schools for talented kids, but there is one layer missing--accessible music education for all. That is what we are trying to change here,“ says de Haas. She has, along with Shubhendra, launched a foundation which will offer music education to children from every kind of background.

Already , you can sense the children getting comfortable with the idea of pitch, dropping it as their teacher's hands drop, raising it when asked, correcting the notes on a second hearing.


Shubhendra Rao
The Delhi-based musician is keen to introduce music education to every child in India.

  1. Do you want music to be made part of the school curriculum?
    It should be a part of the curriculum; children should adapt to music, it being the first language they respond to.
  2. What is the glocalised music education you talk of?
    That's a term we have coined, joining global outlook and local flavour. We have a beautiful Indian flavour; to keep that alive we need a global outlook to it.
  3. Are kids are interested in classical music?
    At age 3-4, kids are innocent. If they are introduced to good music, they will adapt to it.
  4. Are there enough music teachers?
    Many musicians become teachers but are not good educators. They need special kind of training for that. Our initiative sensitises teachers.
  5. What about availability of musical instruments in small towns, villages?
    When every village can have a computer then why is it difficult to have musical instruments?
  6. How does music help children?
    Research proves that children who learn music have a large vocabulary, and is essential for those with learning disabilities too. Music is to the brain what exercise is to the body!
  7. What is the status of classical music?
    Its popularity is spiralling. I think it has a huge role to play in these challenging times.
  8. Is it appreciated globally?
    Yes, it is very accessible to people from different cultures and all walks of life.
  9. What music influences you the most?
    Even though I am trained in classical music, I am open to all kinds of music—film music or ghazals.
  10. You play the sitar, your wife plays the you play in harmony?
    We have been married for 14 years and there is nothing better than being married harmoniously—both on and off stage.
THE New Indian Express

17th August 2014

The Pundits of Performance Turn a Fresh Chapter in Education

Performing and visual arts revolutionalise education. Three Delhi-based artistes, pundits in their respective fields, have come up with new ideas to introduce education in arts and arts in education. Sanjana Kapoor, well-known theatre personality and founder of Junoon, a platform for promoting arts, is launching a course for specialisation in theatre management. "I have come up with a course on theatre management. It will be starting soon," she says. On the other hand, Saskia Rao De Haas, the world-renowned cellist has launched a music curriculum, Music 4 All, "global music education based on Indian music" with her husband, the world-renowned sitar maestro Shubhendra Rao under the Shubhendra and Saskia Rao Foundation recently.

"Music is a necessity rather than a luxury. It is the birthright of every child. Our curriculum is based on Indian music and is structured to teach the universal concepts," Saskia says.

Life Positive

Sounds of silence

By Punya Srivastava
July 2014

An invitation for 'a silence concert' turned out to be an experience of a lifetime.

Silence Concert, organised by Soul Centric in Delhi, is an initiative of Shubhendra and Saskia Rao to celebrate the pure essence of music that has somehow got lost in the cacophony of the usual ‘concerts’. Hence, it did away with rituals like introductions, applause, and speeches. The audience was requested to be seated well before the concert opened, with cellphones switched off. The show started with Pt. Shubhendra Rao on sitar accompanied by Pt. Shailendra Mishra on tabla. Rao is a protégé of the renowned sitarist Pt. Ravi Shankar and a thinking musician endeavouring to take music beyond conventional boundaries. Pt. Mishra is a graded AIR artist who has accompanied major names of Indian classical music in various international shows.

The jugalbandi notes filled the room and reverberated through every soul. Every taan of the sitar, every thaap of the tabla would compel me to exclaim with joy, but in that intensely meditative space, I learnt to direct that appreciation within. Eventually, the only thing that mattered was pure consciousness of the music. The experience moved beyond music, juxtaposing the beat with the rhythm of one’s breath; a moment of oneness for the artist and the audience in an ambience devoid of any distraction. The concert ended without applause as per the directions, but the effect lingered. Even several minutes afterward, the audience was reluctant to speak, none in the mood to break the spell that Pt. Rao’s music had created that evening.

Silence Concert is a unique concept that needs encouragement from every related quarter to bring forth the true purpose of music. Hitherto, I listened to music. After the Silence Concert, I have learned to experience it.

Life Positive

Hindustan Times (Delhi)

10 Nov 2014

Life Positive

A glimpse of previous year’s Children’s Day celebration at the mall

With Children’s Day knocking on our doors, many innovative cultural activities have been lined up in the Capital to celebrate the spark and innocence of childhood.

Keeping this excitement in mind, Select CITYWALK will mark this day with a free-for-all music concert called Music By Children, For Children and various other activities. Speaking to us about the event, Arjun Sharma, director, Select CITYWALK says, “I along with my co-directors, Neeraj Ghei and Yograj Arora, believe that children are an important part of a family and like spending quality time with their parents at the mall. With options such as movie halls, food joints, play centres and brand shops, malls are an ultimate family outing destination.

“Keeping all these factors in mind, we are organising a music concert where former TV show host, Richa Anirudh, will be moderating an interactive music session. Apart from this, we also have three child prodigies — Ishaan, Zargam and Ayesha — on piano, tabla and vocals respectively. This will be followed by the performance of a choir and orchestra music group, Music 4 All.”

Sharing more about their plans, Sharma adds, “We would also have a carnival full of musical games and other exciting activities, aiming to take kids back to the basics. We will have activities such as painting contests, which involve coordination of hand and mind.” Ready to reflect back on your childhood days? Catch all the action on November 14 from 5pm to 7pm at Amphitheater Open Plaza, Select CITYWALK, Plot No. A-3, District Centre, Saket, New Delhi.

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