Today we’d like to introduce you to Sandhya Mahesh.
Hi Sandhya, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
Music has always been a driving force in my life. I’ve been playing the piano since the age of 4 and the viola since I was 10. I’ve played with Carnegie Hall’s National Youth Orchestra, Interlochen’s World Youth Symphony Orchestra, the Houston Youth Symphony, and the TMEA All-State Symphony Orchestra.
While I love playing music competitively, one of my biggest goals is to use my music in a way that can truly impact people’s lives. I’m also the founder and director of a project called Chords for a Cause (chordsforacause.org). We work directly with elementary schools to bring classical music to young students in musically underrepresented areas, provide music to those in nursing homes through live/ virtual concerts, and raise money that is donated to various causes.
I first started my work with the initiative at nursing homes in the Houston area, sharing music with them through regular concerts. When COVID-19 hit, I was no longer allowed into facilities where I volunteered all these years. That’s when I decided to take our music online, expanding our reach to nursing homes in the US. Now, we coordinate with the nursing homes to either do live Zoom concerts or provide recorded playlists so their patients can view them in the privacy of their rooms.
Over the past 6 years, we’ve raised over $20,000 organizing musical fundraiser concerts for various NGOs and nonprofits, including CRY America, which supports children in India who are at risk of exploitation and abuse, and SkateTherapy, a program that provides therapeutic figure skating to kids with intellectual and physical disabilities. Our concerts bring together the Houston community, with students from all over the city coming to perform.
Last year, I received the President’s Gold Volunteer Service Award and this year, the Congressional Gold Medal for my work with Chords or a Cause. I have also been featured in other news:
1. Skate Therapy Fundraiser: Alvin ISD (https://tinyurl.com/mryxpskf)
3. KHOU 11 News : Video (https://tinyurl.com/bdzhshhb)
4. Making a difference through Music: Alvin ISD (https://tinyurl.com/2p8pbc62)
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
When I launched Chords For A Cause, we had worked with memory care and senior facilities all over the country to perform concerts in person and virtually nearly every weekend. With a diverse group of students from different parts of the world, each with a different goal, I think our biggest challenge was to make sure that our volunteers were truly committed. I’ve learned that personal communication is essential in making sure each person feels that they are appreciated as part of the volunteer group. I often have to work to “rekindle the fire,” and inspire team members by helping them understand the real effects and vision of the work they are doing. I’ve definitely discovered the importance of leading by example; if my team doesn’t believe I’m committed to the cause, they won’t be either.
Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Chords for a Cause really is my passion project and I think my passion for it really shows through in the things we’ve achieved. I’ve worked tirelessly making sure our events go to plan and organizing performers. On top of leading charity concerts, nursing home recitals, and other music-related activities, I’m also the sole developer of the Chords for a Cause website.
Most importantly, however, our initiative is where it is today because of how passionate our volunteers are. Our group is nearing 100 members across the world, and we currently share music with 24 nursing homes all over the country, totalling nearly 1,000 patients. No matter what their interests, whether playing an instrument, organizing, making art, or writing, they’ve found ways to make a difference in their community through their love for music and we couldn’t be more thankful.
Can you share something surprising about yourself?
I’m also a figure skater! I’ve been skating competitively for over 10 years now; my theater on ice team, the Houston Ice Theater Skaters, won 7th at the National Theater on Ice competition, and I’m also a US Figure Skating Silver Medalist (Moves in the Field).
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: www.chordsforacause.org
- Instagram: @chordsforacauseorg
Amitava Sarkar (main photo)