Music: Plug into mental health

When 4-year-old Nirvaan Pandit joined the lessons run by his mother, a bansuri player and teacher, for three- and four-year-olds, he learned more than music. Even though he was just a little boy at the time, he saw how his mother interacted with her students and noted that music supplanted all other forms of communication and contributed to children’s mental development.

“Even those who were quiet and reserved have become energetic and passionate,” says the 17-year-old Mumbai-based guitarist and pianist. “Music is an integral part of my life and has many positive developmental effects.” This is why, at the age of 14, Nirvaan began a quest to democratize the effects of music that is still popular today.

Two volumes of melodies

Tapping into the fact that there are no forms of music therapy in India, Nirvaan, then 14, developed an app called TheraTunes, aided by his older sister, Keya, a pianist.

TheraTunes has been running for three and a half years now, initially as a measure for Nirvaan to compose and explore how he could help people, and visit NGOs to study the impact of music therapy on the ground.

Nirvaan’s app focuses on using music to evoke cognitive, emotional and physical responses

Their in-person program experience helped them develop more lessons and grow and now, since the start of the pandemic, they have 30,000 users in 28 different countries and two music volumes, each with 13 songs.

This global effect was a result of the pandemic: Nirvaan’s programs had to be online only during the lockdown, which allowed many people to access its content wherever they were in the world. The program allows students to choose songs according to their needs, since each song is intended to work on a different skill, and teachers access lesson planning functions and develop their own lesson plans.

Access is key

“Teachers also need access to instruction and need to learn to analyze how children react to content,” says Nirvaan. “Music taps into parts of the brain that affect cognitive, emotional and physical aspects for people with special disabilities. Rhythmic elements of songs such as scales, pitches, and frequencies can elucidate reactions. Voice call answering exercises help memorization skills. These are fundamental skills necessary for the development of a child. Each song has a specific scientific support.

TheraTunes helped Arjun, 11, who has Down syndrome and attends a school for children with developmental disabilities. “He had trouble speaking and sharing in class, and was easily distracted. After 12 lessons his interactions improved,” says Nirvaan, recalling his trip to a village called Soda on the outskirts of Jaipur, where they met around 40 pre-teen school children and did a session with them with great results. .

heraTunes has been running for three and a half years now, starting as a measure for Nirvaan to compose and explore how he could help people, and visiting NGOs to study the impact of music therapy on the ground

“Many people in India don’t believe in self-help or the aspects of therapy that help individuals improve. Music is rooted in Indian culture. But when people think of music, they only think of entertainment, not that it can help as a form of therapy,” Nirvaan points out.

So, is India ready to embrace music therapy? “India is modernizing as a society,” he admits.

Nirvaan’s goal is to implement music as a regular part of the curriculum in public schools. “There’s a perception that music is not a subject, but it’s crucial that people are heard, and music helps give them a voice,” he says. “TheraTunes is my passion project, but I don’t intend for it to just stay that way,” he concludes, adding that at the college level, he is likely to study entrepreneurship in psychology.

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From HT Brunch, March 13, 2022

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