Thursday, March 26, 2020


March is Music in Our Schools month! 

There are a lot of disappointed music teachers out there. Student performers, too. March is often the month for special presentations and performances. It’s also a time when music teachers try to involve all the other staff in the building in celebrating music. You might see a bulletin board with photos of the school’s teachers and staff describing their favorite kind of music or telling about how they participated in school music as a child.

Of course, music teachers live and breathe music every day of the year but March is special. It’s a big deal. 

And now we are all stuck in our homes. There are no Music in Our Schools concerts, or bulletin boards, morning announcements, staff-wide or school-wide activities. 

In honor of our Howard County music teachers and students, I’d like to share a little information about someone who grew up in Columbia and attended Howard County Schools. His name is Deepak Ramapriyan. I first learned about him from reading this article by Baltimore Sun Arts and Entertainment reporter Sameer Rao in the Howard County Times.

From the article:

Disney Junior’s latest animated series for preschoolers, “Mira, Royal Detective,” kicks off with a burst of energy. Viewers meet the titular protagonist through a catchy theme song as two meerkats sing “Let’s hear it for Mira, Royal Detective!” over an instrumental mixing pop hooks with lilting South Asian instrumentation. Credit this unique mix to the series’ musical consultant and orchestrator, Baltimore-area native Deepak Ramapriyan.

Ramapriyan may have been born in Baltimore but he grew up in Columbia and attended Howard County Schools. That got me thinking. Did he participate in school music programs as he was growing up? (Truth in advertising: I still do social media engagement for Howard County Parents for School Music, so I’m always looking for a good music story.)

I reached out to Mr. Ramapriyan through social media and, to my surprise, I heard back in less than twenty four hours. Here was my question:

I read the article about your career in the Howard County Times. I was wondering if you participated in school music programs when you were growing up here. I write a Community blog and I’m also a strong supporter of music education. Did you have a good experience? If not, how could it have been better?

From his response:

I participated in many music programs over my years there at school; in elementary school at Swansfield, there were musicals that I auditioned for and acted in them - in middle school and high school I got into orchestra and choir programs - Madrigals at Atholton High School and the Jazz Choir, as well as the main concert choir; also was in orchestra there as well - same in middle school.

Wow. I guess the answer would be yes, absolutely. He was the archetypal Music Kid. His teachers may still be working in the system today. I’ll bet they are proud. But it’s also interesting to note that Ramapriyan had many other interests. In college he took a pre-med course load, focusing on neurobiology and physiology, along with many classes in criminology and criminal justice. Clearly not a one-note sort of fellow. 

The thing is, even if Deepak Ramapriyan had ended up becoming a medical doctor he would still be a success story for music in our schools, because it is obvious that participation in music was deeply interwoven with everything that he learned from a very young age. He would have been a doctor who played in a community orchestra, or played with family members, or supported the arts by attending concerts and making donations. 

Music is (and always would have been) his joy. And the light of that joy was kindled and fostered in school music programs in Howard County. 

I learned something else. Mr. Ramapriyan isn’t just resting on his laurels from the Disney gig. The social distancing thing? He has some ideas. Musical ones.

So, thing about Music in Our Schools, the thing that matters in the long run:  music in our schools never stays just in our schools. Music stays in our heads, in our hearts, in our lives. And music goes out into the world to be shared. Right now, at this very moment, that is something to be truly grateful for.

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