A first for Ontario Dr. Swarn Lata Opens Sitar School in Toronto

Ontario’s first female-led sitar school is now open in the heart of Toronto.
Celebrated sitarist Dr. Swarn Lata, who holds a doctorate in sitar instrumental music and has performed professionally for 30 years, has opened the Sitar Darpan School of Music at 61 Heintzman Street, Unit 1113 near the intersection of Keele Street and Dundas West.
“Sitar Darpan offers classes in the ‘khula gayan’ style, which provides room for flexibility and improvisation within the structure of compositions,” says Dr. Lata. “I’m the only female teacher in Ontario. Many a times, parents of young girls prefer to send their daughters to a female teacher and I am proud to be able to offer that option.”
The school is open to students of age 10 and above from all cultures, religions and nationalities. Registration is free and can be done online at www.sitardarpan.com
Ownership of a sitar isn’t needed to start. “I always have an extra sitar around in case someone wants to first try beginner classes and then buy the instrument as they
progress later,” says Dr. Lata.
The sitar, a stringed instrument with historical roots in traditional Indian classical music, has become a favourite of contemporary jazz musicians.
“Sitar has been a part of jazz since the late-1950s or early-1960s when Pandit Ravi Shankar, a renowned sitarist, whose pioneering artistry crosses all cultural and musical boundaries, collaborated with jazz musicians, such as Tony Scott and Bud Shank. The Beatles took the sitar to its zenith in the mid-1960s when Beatle George Harrison took lessons from Pandit Ravi Shankar and played sitar on several songs. By then it had become a youth phenomenon,” says Dr. Lata.
Later, jazz recordings containing sitar pieces became popular, with the instrument featured on albums by Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Yusef Lateef, Joe Harriott (in collaboration with composer John Mayer), and Ornette Coleman.
Dr. Lata, who holds B.A., B.Ed., M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in ‘sitar – instrumental music’ from Punjab University, Chandigarh, India is a disciple of late Dr. Sagar Pandit, who, in turn, was the disciple of legendary Indian vocalist, Late Pt. Onkar Nath Thakur.
Dr. Lata’s love for the instrument brought her to Canada. In 1994, before emigrating here, she gave a solo sitar concert at the University of Saskatchewan, Department of Music in Saskatoon. The director of the Saskatoon Academy of Music was so impressed by her performance that he offered her a permanent job as a sitar teacher at the school.

Although Dr. Lata did not immigrate to Canada then, she dreamed of moving here to spread her love for the sitar to a diverse, global audience.

Dr. Lata eventually moved to Canada in 2001 and, while working full-time at another job, began teaching the instrument to students on weekends. A teacher at heart, with a strong passion for the instrument, she finally decided to fully devote her time to teaching sitar.
Dr. Lata has enthralled audiences with recitals at the Hamilton Arts Centre, Mohawk College, McMaster University, York University, Mel Lastman Square and Yorkwood Library as well as delivering solo sitar recitals and a lecture series on McMaster radio, FM 93.3 in Hamilton. For the past six years, the Himalayan Yoga Meditation Society of Ontario has organized Dr. Lata’s ‘morning ragas on sitar’ at various places in the Greater Toronto Area.

About Sitar Darpan School of Music

Sitar Darpan is dedicated to teaching sitar to students of all races, languages and religions. Sitar is perfect for a wide range of moods and expressions as its music soothes the mind, providing joy and inspiration. Students can enrol at www.sitardarpan.com

For more information on classes, workshops, performances and seminars, please contact latasitar@yahoo.ca or call (647) 342-4041, (416 )857-4061 (cell) or visit the website   www.sitardarpan.com

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