Harpist Nush Lewis confesses that the best word to describe her as a child would be mischievous. Growing up in a musical household, she was extremely talkative and sometimes a bit too loud. “Music was a part of day-to-day life right from waking up to the radio and singing together. I think that is what got me to really love music,” says Lewis who is exploring uncharted trajectories with her forays into playing the harp and starting India’s only podcast on music education while dabbling in teaching music.
For the past five years, Lewis has been working on OffSet Education, an initiative created to directly help education and creative development with support from the music industry. “We do this through skill-based workshops conducted by some of the finest industry professionals,” says Lewis who was introduced to the harp as a child by chance, through a music theory teacher in school who offered a trial class. “We have also recently started a community choir in Mumbai called ‘The Euphony Choir’ and we have a music education podcast called ‘Out of the Box’ which is currently in its second season.”
The pandemic has meant that several initiatives have gone online, and this has worked well for the industry as well. Reports indicate that the global market size for online music learning is expected to touch US$143 million by 2025. In the same vein, Lewis only started using technology to teach in 2020 during the lock down. “We used Zoom to conduct the workshops and used applications like Audio Movers whenever we ran sound engineering and production workshops. At present we have a hybrid model in place which will kick in once we restart our workshops soon,” she says.
OffSet Education’s focus is on skill development with the help of industry professionals. When it was started, they started by curating process-driven workshops such as ‘Jai Row Kavi’s process as a Sessions Drummer’ or ‘Fali Damania’s process as a live sound engineer’. This led her to focus on other subjects such as music business and vocal rehabilitation. “We are probably different from all other edtech companies because we work with small numbers,” says Lewis. “Our class size for each workshop rarely goes over 20 participants. We do this to avoid diluting the learning experience. We are heavily involved with workshop planning and lesson flow. It’s crucial for us to make sure that participants get the most out of our workshops. All our on-ground workshops varied from three to five-hour sessions. Online workshops would be over two days and a total of four hours.”
When harnessing the power of technology to reach a wider audience for Offset Education in 2020, Lewis launched her podcast ‘Out of the Box’ as a video interview series aimed to support and promote music educators who were doing things differently. After the series ended, ‘Out of the Box’ continued to be popular with several requests for more interviews. “This pushed me to want to make it a podcast that catered to music educators,” she remembers. “The music teaching community in India barely gets a chance to meet and exchange ideas so we thought it would be a good way to spark dialogue. I then invited my educator friend, Shanelle Rodrigues, to join me as a co-host and co-producer on the second season.”
While the first season of ‘Out of the Box’ kicked off with trumpet player and elementary music educator Meera Fernandes, it concluded with seven episodes. Season two, also featuring longer episodes, is currently underway with conversations that focus on running a music NGO (Dr Luis Dias); music education through regional languages and curriculum production (Saurabh Suman); accessibility of music therapy (Purvaa Sampath); and more. “The second season gave us the space to not only do interviews but also comment on the teaching trends in India now,” says Lewis. “We are hoping at some point this podcast will manifest into a music education conference or help change policy.”
Looking ahead, she says that 2023 already appears exciting. “I will be releasing my third EP, ‘Forgotten Verses’, by the first week of February. This EP will also have a multi art installation which will be developed later in the year. I also have a single in the books with the very talented violinist, Apoorva Krishna, which I am looking forward to. And of course, a whole lot of touring which will be announced in due course of time,” she signs off.