With the world reeling from a global pandemic, local high school student Riya Narayan, 16, has spent the past year enriching the lives of community members of people living with assistance around the world.
His self-taught youth-run organization, Treats and Tunes, allows young people to share their musical talents with seniors who would otherwise be isolated.
Narayan, now a student at University School of Nashville, got the idea to start Treats and Tunes in the fall of her freshman year after volunteering at an assisted living facility with her mother. Narayan enjoyed the visit so much that she started volunteering in nursing homes on a regular basis. Finally, she started to bring her violin.
“Visiting assisted living centers was a way for me to spend time with the older generation, learn more about their stories, and then do something that I love too,” she said. “I discovered that music is just something that anyone can connect with, no matter what age or whatever someone is going through.”
Over time, Narayan invited other young musicians to perform alongside him. It was “unbelievable” until the coronavirus started to spread in Williamson County.
Narayan had to adapt to a changing reality. She called assisted living centers across the state to perform virtually for residents with her friends. At the same time, she connected with more musicians.
What started as a group of 10 passionate students has quickly grown into an international network of talent.
Since the start of 2021, approximately 100 high school students have performed music in person and virtually for more than 25 assisted living facilities in Tennessee, New York, Michigan, Washington, Canada, Venezuela, Brazil and India in as part of Treats and Tune’s mission to serve senior citizens in need.
For their in-person events, performers bring cookies, cupcakes, and other desserts to listeners.
“This is optional after playing, but [volunteers] can just sit and chat with a few residents, ”Narayan said. “I always like to do that, and they also like spending time with us, which is such a blessing.
“I remember sitting down with a lady, her name was Roberta, and she told me all kinds of stories about how she performed on Broadway when she was young, and I think the simple fact hearing about her and hearing her stories was so inspiring for me. I try to take each person’s story with me as inspiration and hope for the things that I can aspire to be. ‘to come up.”
Narayan plays Ariel in his school’s spring production “The Little Mermaid”. She said she would be happy to pursue a career in music, theater and community service as an adult, but she understands the importance of her organization’s continued mission.
Many older people in long-term care facilities experience issues such as severe loneliness, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and other neurological issues. Music has been shown to fight mild cognitive impairment, dementia, and some forms of memory loss, according to recent research published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
“I want to continue Treats and Tunes [after I graduate high school]Narayan said. “This is a very important thing for me. I could pass it on to someone or find a way to stay involved. “
Treats and Tunes will host performances for the facilities for the foreseeable future and through 2022. They have also launched a new program where members make seasonal greeting cards for those in need.
Narayan encourages all interested students to join the organization and serve their community to reach out.