Newcomers: Call Centre Graduate Finds Her Voice

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by Chris Dart

If you ask Gauri Guha what she does for a living, she’ll tell you she’s a call center manager at Scotiabank. If you ask her what she does, she’ll reveal something completely different.

“I’ve been singing since I was born,” says Guha, who first began studying Indian classical music at age 6. By the time she was 13, Guha was performing in front of large audiences in her native India. She has been singing ever since, and has even recorded eight music CDs that showcase her exceptional talent.

Guha is a vocalist in the Indian classical kyal style. She has an expansive repertoire of classical pieces, as well as lighter genre such as thumri and bhajans. In India, Guha had studied singing with Pandit A. Kanan, a resident teacher of Sangeet Research Academy in Calcutta.

She first came to Canada in 1980 to perform live concerts. While here, she studied comparative Western and Indian classical music with Dr. Nicholas Nanos, who offered her a job at his Parkdale Music School.

In 1982, she returned to Toronto and settled as a resident, making the journey back to India for performances regularly. She also sang for appreciative audiences in Europe, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname, and performed on-air for broadcasters such as Toronto’s OMNI Television and Voice of America Radio.

Remarkably, Guha still considers herself a student – a philosophy that made her transition to college life in Canada easier. Guha is a graduate of Centennial College’s Call Centre Management program, which she completed in 2001.

Upon graduation, she rejoined Scotiabank’s electronic banking contact centre, where she had been working previously. Guha says combining her artistic passion and her corporate life isn’t as difficult as people might imagine.

“Music is my life,” she says. “It’s not my hobby, it’s my passion. When you’re passionate about something, you’ll always make time to do it. I usually practice singing three or four hours a day.”

In fact, Guha believes singing makes her work at Scotiabank easier.

“The skills I use in singing are skills we use in any profession,” she says. “The concentration and peace I get from music are very helpful. I’m never stressed out.”

Her talent recently found a new medium. Last December, she travelled to France to work alongside a group of Belgian musicians. Together they recorded a soundtrack for the film “The Hindu Tomb.” “This is really exciting for me,” she says. “I’ve never worked on a film before, so this is a totally new experience for me.”

In addition to being a lifelong student of music – Guha has been learning under the guidance of Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty since 2001 – she also teaches music.

Due to her demanding work and performance schedule, Guha instructs just a small number of students, but plans to expand her teaching work in the future.

“There will be a time when I cannot perform as much as I do now. When I have to reduce my performance schedule, I will take on more students.”

Teaching is nothing new to Guha. As a young woman, she had been sent by the Indian Council of Cultural Relations to Guyana to work as a cultural officer and music teacher for three years.

She also has another career in mind when her performance schedule becomes less demanding. “I want to be a motivational speaker,” she said. “Combining my fields, I have a lot of knowledge that I’d like to share.”

Centennial College has changed its Call Centre Operations program to a part-time format for fall 2007, which lends itself well to working individuals who want to attend college classes in the evenings and on weekends. For more information, please call Centennial’s School of Continuing Education at 416-289-5207.

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