Delhi-based NGO Manzil Mystics has been teaching music to underprivileged kids for the last seven years now. The NGO’s flagship program, Learning Through Music (LTM), enables children to express their hopes, ideas, happiness, anger and frustrations through music. In the pandemic, they developed an online module of teaching and extended their expertise to autistic children. Excerpts from an interview with Co-founder Preeti:
Tell us about your initiative.
LTM workshops are structured in a way to induce team building, nurture creativity and build confidence. Participants learn how to sing, write and compose a song. The curriculum is customised for each center to the batch size and time available across the academic year. Our compositions stress on being socially responsible, which our students imbibe from a young age, along with subjects dealing with gender inequality, world peace, conflict resolution and inclusion.
What is your working process?
We give music access to the autistic children to perform on stage so that they can gain confidence, ability to control their emotional state and connect with us through music. We had heard a lot about healing through music, but after working with these kids we can easily see how happy music makes them, when they express their feelings by singing songs, dancing and playing games.
What challenges did you face teaching music online to autistic kids?
There are network issues. We cannot tell kids to sing together as a group like we used to in offline classes, which is also a problem because sometimes they get uncomfortable singing alone. In offline classes, we used to send over two facilitators, one guitarist and one vocalist, but in online classes we cannot tell the guitarist to play the guitar along with the vocalist from home, so we record the song and send it again to the kids after class.
What are the ethical components one should keep in mind while helping people from underprivileged backgrounds?
Listening carefully, using certain words and knowing how to communicate with special children, maintaining a relationship as both a teacher and friend, handling their sudden mood swings. The way to love these children is different. It is important to show empathy because only then you can connect with them. You have to be a creative person to make it an energetic experience when you teach them music.
They have a very sharp memory and don’t forget songs, lyrics and melodies, once taught.
How do you want to take this work further?
I think everyone should get a chance to learn. Art is the same for everyone. Everyone has talent and only needs a teacher. When you share music with these kids, they get the confidence and courage to solve problems with equal access to opportunities. The vision of Manzil Mystics is the want to give people with disabilities the access to music, which can bring hope to their lives.