Ramkumar Jagadeesan didn’t grow up around music, but he fell in love with it all the same.
Now, the 37-year-old Troy University student is trying to spread that love to his home country of India, where music isn’t considered a priority in education and children often grow up without the option to listen to a wide array of music.
In 2014, Jagadeesan founded Project Missing Pieces, a public charitable trust operating in his homeland with the mission of providing quality music education and exposure to disadvantaged children and promoting music education.
“We are trying to give music education to underprivileged children who don’t have access to formal education,” said Jagadeesan, who is studying music industry and psychology at the Troy Campus. “I have seen situations back home where I realize a set of 60 children, believe it or not, know only a couple of songs together. Everybody wanted to sing, but they kept singing the same songs.”
It was something he particularly noticed when working as creative director of the Nalandaway Foundation, a nonprofit that helps children find expression through the arts.
While with that group, he worked with children on musical themes addressing social issues, including an album supported by UNICEF in 2007.
“They didn’t know anything else (musically), which I thought was instinctively wrong. It’s injurious,” Jagadeesan said. “You’re growing up without any exposure to any kind of music. The schools don’t have it. If the parents can afford it, they will send their children to private lessons, but there’s no other way.”
The lack of musical exposure not only keeps children from entertainment, he argues, but hampers their intellectual growth as well.
“Music back home is still entertainment, not considered a basic requirement for any child’s upbringing,” Jagadeesan said. “That’s a challenge to make them understand how important it is. Put (kids) in music, and their grades will improve. That’s scientific. It’s been proven. If you want the child to improve grades, put them in music and you’ll see the change over a long period of time.”
Because of the lack of formal training options in his home state of Tamil Nadu, Jagadeesan taught himself how to write and compose songs. Eventually, he decided to pursue it full-time and found his way to America, where he has studied Western music.
Now, he wants to give a formal music education to children in his homeland – for free.
“You have every right to learn music, every right to sing, every right to listen, every right to enjoy,” Jagadeesan said. “Any child deprived of that right, that is fundamentally wrong.”
He enlisted Kavita Baliga, a Boston Conservatory alumna, to help develop an extensive syllabus for the program.
“She works a lot in India, she’s an educator as well, and said we can do this,” he said. “We started putting together curriculum for children from scratch. We have a seven-month curriculum good to go. We have talked to a bunch of local organizations who have been gracious enough to let us do the work, but funding is the major thing. We are waiting for the funding.”
The organization is in the process of developing a Kickstarter and other funding options, and Jagadeesan said he’s trying to convince leadership and parents in India of the program’s importance.
He said TROY’s Music Industry Program and the leadership of Robert W. Smith have only fanned the flames of his passion for music.
The point of Project Missing Pieces isn’t to teach everyone to play instruments, but to expose children to the beauty of music.
“The primary thing is not to make everybody a musician, but it is about the opportunity to enjoy music,” Jagadeesan said. “The goal is not to make everybody a cook. The goal is giving everyone an opportunity to eat.”
For more information about the project, visit www.projectmissingpieces.org