This music junkie from the United Kingdom is the CEO of a Mumbai-based contemporary music school – True School of Music.
Julia Leggett is the former Executive Director and then CEO of the Academy of Contemporary Music, UK, and has dabbled with various works during her tenure in ACM including opening of a partner school in the US, devising online platforms, developing music industry connections and the creation of numerous youth academies.
Julia shares, “My childhood was quite challenging. We moved house 7 times before I turned 7 due to my mother’s illness. She died when I was 9. Four of my siblings and I were therefore raised by my father who also worked full time with no family support we essentially had to take care of ourselves but on the plus side, I had a lot of freedom and became very resourceful!”
What more? New sensation Ed Sheeran was one of her students at ACM.
Wondering what then interested her to come to India and help aspiring musicians? Snippets from our interaction with her:
What interested you in joining True School of Music?
When the founders of True School (Ashu Phatak and Nitin Chandy) contacted me in 2013, I was immediately drawn to what they were looking to achieve. They wanted to open India’s very first music industry school and Mumbai was the perfect setting given its entertainment links. They had a vision for a school similar to ACM in the heart of this amazing city.
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Ashu and Chandy were reaching out to international music schools for collaboration. I invited them to spend a week with me and we hit it off immediately and kept in touch.
To my amazement, within 3 months of our first meeting, they had built the whole school and even more amazing was their Skype call – “come to India!” they shouted – and of course, I jumped at the chance.
How would you define music in your life?
Music has always been my first love. I joined my first band at 14, recorded my first album at 18 and then on to release a number of singles in my twenties!
I used to cycle 10 miles each way to the recording studio and work 3 jobs to pay for the session. I also gigged live. There was nothing like TSM available to me. I am very happy to have dedicated almost the last 13 years of my life to assisting aspiring artists in a more structured way.
There isn’t a single day that goes by without some new refinement to the programme. Whether it is course improvements, equipment upgrades, new programs or extracurricular activity; everything is constantly evaluated against our core principle of putting the student experience first.
What inspired you to come to India and why?
I have always had a fascination for India. My father was born in Colaba in 1929 and spent his first 28 years living in and around India and Pakistan. He studied at Cathedral John Connon and would spend his weekends in and around the Apollo Bunder. It has been amazing to come to India and tread the same streets as my father and my grandparents. My grandmother was a ward sister in JJ Hospital and my grandfather worked for the British Petroleum.
What potential did you see in Indian music and people?
When offered this job, initially, I started researching about the scene in India. What I discovered was a fast developing western music scene. I noted that a lot of big names were starting to put India into their tour. Just this last 12 months, Mumbai has hosted Justin Bieber, Coldplay and Ed Sheeran amongst others.
My life has been a bit of a musical sandwich! I had tried my luck with dot-com business in the early 20s. I returned to music from the corporate world after the birth of my children. I decided that if I was going to return to work and spend time away from them, I needed to do something I felt deeply passionate about.
I had spent a week with the team at TSM before finally deciding to take the plunge. I found each of them to be warm, welcoming, and hugely talented. It is literally like going to work with my friends. During this first visit, I spent time talking to them and found them sincere and serious about their academics which of course was hugely compelling.
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What market gaps are you trying to address as the CEO of True School of Music?
It’s the best time to be a musician in India. The industry is growing and offering big bucks. Our students are already proving that lasting careers are a reality with many of them currently work as full-time musicians.
Approximately 40% of our students are females. I think there is a growing number of female musicians finding themselves drawn to TSM.
Explain why True School of Music is so efficient in the modern market?
Our efficiency comes from our team of teachers and administrators. We have attracted tutors from Italy, Cyprus, Germany, The Netherlands, Hungary, Israel, Brazil, England, The United States, France and of course India itself.
We’ve just launched True School: Learn to Sing, our vocal teaching App.
The real challenge has been the development of the school. Opening a brand new school in western contemporary music education is not for the faint-hearted. It takes a lot of vision, energy, determination and resilience to create something like this. We are now 4 years old and going from strength to strength.
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What’s your opinion about extra activities for kids and why they are needed, especially today when the weight of education has become so heavy?
My husband and I have a kids music school in England called PopRox. It’s aimed at 7 – 16 year olds and we started it because we wanted something for our then 7 & 9 years to enjoy. They had grown up with music as being a fundamental pillar in their lives but when they went to school, they were not being inspired. Having experienced all the non-music and music related benefits to learning an instrument, we set about creating a new weekend music school. I truly believe that music teaches you so much more than the joy of music itself – things such as self-esteem, creativity, teamwork, emotional expression, confidence. These are all great life skills for young people to master whether they take music up as a career or otherwise.
Advice to other aspirant women who dream Music
Music, like any art form, requires resilience. It takes time to develop your craft, your voice, your sound but once you do, and you take music deep into your heart and you can literally take it anywhere and for always. It is part of who I am. If you know this too, then trust that it will always be there to support you.
I may not be always “doing music” in its purest form, but I have the heart of a musician and this has served me well.
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