By Amber Belus
With his organization, Suneil has impacted around 500 youths through innovative music therapy and education projects. We recently sat down with the music man himself to find out what inspired him to start Music of the Heart, and what he hopes to do in the future.
Photo: (Suneil Kamath)
ACT: What’s the main focus of the Music of the Heart campaign? What impact has it created so far?
SUNEIL: We have impacted around 500 youths through innovative music therapy and education projects. We’re currently developing a program called HEAL, which stands for Hip-Hop Education and Learning. HEAL is an innovative after-school program designed to allow at-risk youth to develop and explore their unique voices through hip-hop. We pair them with mentors and they will be given the opportunity to really express what they’re feeling through hip-hop songs. And then we’ll also give them tools and resources to help give them leadership skills such as communication and listening, to really empower them to make a positive difference in the community.
ACT: Was there a specific occasion where music affected you personally or got you through a rough time?
SUNEIL: All the time. Ever since I was little, I’ve played the violin, and it was just a great emotional relief and a hobby of mine. And then, when I was actually really little, I would go to the hospital with my older sister and we would play the violin for the cancer patients there, and I could really see the impact music had on them.
ACT: Who else is involved in your organization?
SUNEIL: Music of the Heart is entirely volunteer-run. We do have two people who are really on staff, doing a lot of the grant writing and program development. We also have a great board of directors, and then we also have numerous volunteers that help us with our projects, that help us writing our blog posts, so we really rely on our volunteer base.
ACT: Did you ever think Music of the Heart would have such an impact?
SUNEIL: Yes and no. I think when I first started I knew I wanted to do something big, something that would have a major impact, but I never knew it would get this big, if that makes sense.
ACT: What tactics do you use to promote your foundation? Do you travel to different schools or host events?
SUNEIL: At first we were just very small and localized, and I think as we continue to expand and grow, we’re looking at partnering with other organizations and hopefully going internationally as well. I think social media has been a great blessing for us. We have been able to connect with numerous partners and people on Twitter and Facebook, and through our website and our blog, and that’s been really great for us.
Photo: (Suneil Kamath)
ACT: How do you manage to do it all? It’s tough to maintain a work and social-life balance when you’re running your own organization!
SUNEIL: Oh, absolutely! There’s no doubt about it. I was a freshman last year, I’m going to be a sophomore, and for the first couple of months I was really struggling. How am I supposed to study, do schoolwork, socialize with my friends and do all this extracurricular stuff, including Music of the Heart? But what I found really helpful was prioritizing what’s most important. So on Sunday I would go through my entire week and schedule times where I would have to sit down and do work. Another thing I’ve found that's been really helpful is whatever I do, I focus 100 percent on that task and I don’t really think about anything else. I am able to hone in my skills, and that’s something helpful.
ACT: What are some songs that get you going in the office? Or when you’re volunteering?
SUNEIL: That really depends on my mood. I really like all types of music. I’m a huge Coldplay fan; I love Maroon 5's new album. If I’m trying to kind of relax, I listen to a lot of gospel music, and when I’m in a huge, uppity, energized mood, I listen to a lot of hip-hop and rap. I’m a huge Kanye West fan.
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