10 Mar 2017
13 min read
1649 words
Shreeti Pradhan talks to VMAG about how her experiences—professional and personal—have helped her become a music therapist

Why did you choose music? 
I was into music ever since I was little. My mother says I used to sing in gibberish when I was young. It’s been there with me the whole time, so I didn’t have to think or make a conscious decision or effort to get into music. I have always sought solace in music, and I can also express myself through it. Music has the power to touch anyone, regardless of the mood he or she is in, and it also provides considerable health benefits for the mind as well as the body.

What was your childhood like? 
I’m an only child. Without siblings around to play with, I figured out ways to entertain myself, and singing was definitely one of my favourite things to do. I was a very shy kid in front of others, but when I was alone, I would dance, sing and compose songs with words that didn’t even make sense. One of my fondest recollections is singing with my parents and recording songs on tape recorders. My father was a teacher and my mother used to work in Radio Nepal. She recently retired after three decades of radio. She was seldom home because of her busy radio and tv schedule, and to keep myself company, I would sing.  

Your mom was in radio and television—meaning you knew of that world pretty early on. Did that familiarity have a role in what you are doing today?
I used to visit mom at Radio Nepal during my winter vacation, and the recording studios used to fascinate me. Radio Nepal used to organise an annual contest called Bal Geet Pratiyogita, and when I was nine years old, I participated in it. I wrote my own song, composed it and got through the auditions. In a way, that was my official debut as a singer. Later, when I was 11 years old, I managed to clinch a spot in the top five in the same contest, and that kind of got me thinking that maybe music could be something I could pursue.

What about your family’s expectations? 
The pressure to do well in my studies was always there, but I was never as enthusiastic about the subjects that were taught in school as I was about music. My inclination toward music definitely hampered my academic pursuits. Nonetheless, I did manage to get good grades. I really appreciate my family for understanding my need and love for music and for fostering my creativity and imagination. 

Are there any events from your childhood that have shaped your music, or you as a person? 
I experienced many childhood traumas, but they have all gone on to strengthen me as a person. Of course, I could have allowed them to affect me negatively, but I chose to not let them hold me back. It wasn’t easy, but I’m thankful I was able to overcome my past. Music definitely played a pivotal role in that overcoming.

What kind of trauma? 
I was physically abused when I was little in my family. That always stayed in my mind, and it took some time for me to let go of that. I think the first step in changing anything in your life is always the hardest. It all starts with one step and a little courage. You need to realise that you need to love yourself; you have to trust that you deserve happiness and normality, and you shouldn’t look back.

Would it be correct to say music was your saviour? 
When I look back, I do think so, but I think it all happened subconsciously. I resorted to music to make sense of the confusion around me. Every time I wanted to express myself or wanted to feel better, I turned to music. My life is a work in progress, and I must say I am happy with the decisions I have made to change it for the better. Music has always been my refuge.

“I resorted to music to make sense of the confusion around me. Every time I wanted to express myself or wanted to feel better, I turned to music. My life is a work in progress”

So how has your journey into the world of music been? 
From my debut in Radio Nepal, when I was nine years old, to studying in Kathmandu Jazz Conservatory and eventually working as a music teacher there, this journey of discovering my world as a musician continues to enthrall me. Right now, I’m working as a music therapist, and I get to work with people from different age groups and people with different needs—social, emotional, spiritual. I get to communicate with them through music, and I find that very beautiful. It’s been such an interesting journey.

You’re a singer, you’ve taught music and now you’re a music therapist. Which role has been the most fulfilling? 
Each role has been meaningful. When I started singing, it helped me become more confident about myself and my abilities. When I became a teacher, that helped me become more responsible. As a music therapist, I borrow a little bit of everything; I perform and I guide. So everything that I have done so far helps what I’m doing right now. I must say, taking up music therapy has been life-changing for me, on both the personal and professional fronts.

How did you get into music therapy? 
One of my vocal coaches, Merethe Vadstein Welle from Nepal Music School, is a music therapist. I knew about music therapy, but I had never really given it much thought back then. But later when I started doing some research, I realised it could make for a rewarding vocation—using music to heal and to create harmony. In 2013, I received partial funding to study music therapy in the US, but I couldn’t afford the remaining expenses. Later, the Music Therapy Trust in India visited KJC for a music therapy workshop/presentation. After attending their workshop, I came to know of a post-graduate diploma course on Clinical Music Therapy, in New Delhi. I applied for the course, and after waiting for the whole of 2015, I received a full scholarship to pursue my education in the field.

Can you give us an idea about what you do and with whom you work?
I love to work with children with autism and see the transformation that comes about through our sessions. Many of these kids find it difficult to focus on one activity for a long time. Music therapy has been extremely helpful for those children who have developmental delay issues because it helps them express themselves, explore and learn. It also boosts their cognitive capacity and motivates them to work with others. I also work with burn victims. I often visit the burn unit of Kanti Children’s Hospital to provide music therapy for kids while the dressings on their wounds are being changed. It is quite painful for the little ones and music helps calm them down. We also travel to villages where we build small libraries, community centres and create modules through which we mix music therapy and fun educational workshops. It has been quite a fulfilling experience.

Do you see music therapy being adopted more here? 
Music therapy is still a fairly new concept in Nepal, but I think everyone has already experienced its therapeutic effects. For instance, when we listen to or hum our favourite tune, we are putting ourselves in a comfortable zone. It would be nice to provide an inexpensive way for people to access music therapy in hospitals, trauma centres, and schools. For this, proper funding, awareness and resources are integral. 

And what’s happening with Shreeti Pradhan the singer/artist? 
I write when I feel like it and compose when the mood is right. I’m also waiting for the right moment to record and release my new songs. I’m just taking my time and am not hurrying to record for the sake of it.