Young talents put their best foot forward for a great cause: Alzheimer’s


August 12, 2015

By Geeta Goindi

Sterling, VA – On August 2, it was a music program with a difference: enthralling performances interspersed with informative segments on a disease afflicting millions – Alzheimer’s.

August 12, 2015

By Geeta Goindi

Sterling, VA – On August 2, it was a music program with a difference: enthralling performances interspersed with informative segments on a disease afflicting millions – Alzheimer’s.

At a music and dance program to benefit Alzheimer's disease are seen: Top, from left to right, Christi Clark of Insight Memory Care Center, Mrs. Nilima Mehra of GTV and emcee of the event, keynote speaker Dr. Mandira Mehra, and organizer Shreya Bhatia, a student at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology; Below left, Palak Shah, a student of Nrityaki Dance Academy; and at right, Vikrant Chawla on tabla

In ‘Sights and Sounds of Music’, an unforgettable musical experience to the credit of high school student Shreya Bhatia, talented artistes of the Washington area performed diverse dance and music pieces for a great cause!  The event raised over $6,000 for Insight Memory Care Center, a non-profit facility in Fairfax dedicated to providing care, support and education to individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and other memory impairments.

It was a discerning and sensitive audience, some 200-strong, that flocked to the Waddell Theater, located on the sprawling Loudoun County campus of Northern Virginia Community College, on a Sunday evening.

Shreya, a senior at the  Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology and backbone behind the event, dwelt on the magnitude of Alzheimer’s disease which, she pointed out, claims more lives than prostrate and breast cancer combined.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) describes Alzheimer’s as “an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually the ability to carry out the simplest tasks”.  It is estimated that over 5 million Americans may have this disease which is the most common form of dementia.

Given that there is no known cure, Shreya searched for means to alleviate the symptoms.  Her research revealed a simple connection between music and the mind.  Endowed with ample talent in music, she organized the program at Waddell Theater to benefit the Alzheimer’s center.

At a music and dance program to benefit Alzheimer's disease are seen: Top, from left to right, keynote speaker Dr. Mandira Mehra, organizer of the event Shreya Bhatia, Palak Shah, student of Nrityaki Dance Academy; and below, from left to right, a student of Srishti School of Dance, students of Natananjali School of Dance, and Natasha Chopra of the SAPAN Institute

In her keynote address at the event, Dr. Mandira Nandani Mehra, a Neurologist and pain management specialist, cited startling statistics of Alzheimer’s worldwide, noting there are 46 million people that suffer from the disease.  Furthermore, every year this figure is increasing and by 2050, it is estimated that over 130 million people will be afflicted with the disorder.  Reportedly, the fastest growth in the elderly population is taking place in India, China and their neighboring countries.

 “This is a huge problem”, emphasized Mandira.  “We, in the neurology community, call it one of the brain killers: Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, dementia.  Unfortunately, they happen at an increasing rate as we continue to get older.  Up to 10 percent of people over 65 do have some form of Alzheimer’s or dementia.  There are no cures.  There are many medications that can alleviate some of the symptoms, but these come with side effects”.

Mandira made a strong case for music therapy as a balm.  “One of the greatest things we can do is incorporate music in our every day life”, she said.  “With current technology, we know music is able to touch areas of the brain, but even innately we can tell that music is able to touch our minds”.

She pointed out that in ancient India, among other civilizations, many types of music therapy were used to alleviate illness whether it was mental distress or physical ailments.  “Music is unique in the sense that it is universal”, found “in every culture and language across the world”, she said.

Stressing on its “therapeutical and incredible beneficial effects”, Mandira told the audience that “music is able to evoke an emotion and when you do that, you are not just evoking one part of your brain.  Through music therapy, you can unlock parts of the brain that were deemed unfunctional.  Music and music therapy improves our quality of life and personal skills, allows us to increase communication and social cohesion that improves our relationships”, she said.

Trained in Indian classical dance, Mandira added, “At the end of the day, being a dancer may not necessarily save you, but it will help to preserve function”.

About Shreya, she gushed that the teenager “is incredibly intelligent, talented and has a heart of gold”.  It is noteworthy that last year, Shreya founded the Music Med Club at her high school to explore the role of music in neurodegenerative disorders.

Mrs. Nilima Mehra, producer and hostess, Global Television Network, Inc. (GTV), served as the mistress of ceremonies at the Waddell Theater event and she aptly noted that Shreya “exemplifies music”.  Among her many meaningful pursuits, Shreya hosts a television segment, ‘Taal Mein Taal’ (immersed in rhythm), aired on GTV’s Womens’ Worldview, MHZ Networks.

 “I, the Washingtonians who know her, call her a celebrity”, said Mrs. Mehra, pointing out that Shreya has shared the stage with acclaimed Indian singers including Sonu Nigam, Shreya Ghoshal, Sunidhi Chauhan, and Shankar Mahadevan, at venues such as DAR Constitution Hall and Patriot Center in the Washington area, and Max Fisher Hall in Detroit, Michigan.

At a music and dance program to benefit Alzheimer's disease are seen: Top, from left to right, a student of Natananjali School of Dance performing a tribute to Lord Krishna in the bharatanatyam style, keynote speaker Dr. Mandira Mehra, organizer of the event and high school senior Shreya Bhatia, and Palak Shah of Nrityaki Dance Academy; below, students of Srishti School of Dance performing bharatanatyam

At ‘Sights and Sounds of Music’, Shreya sang in both Hindi and English displaying her depth, range and skill as a vocalist.  The program featured an eclectic mix of enthralling performances by Washington area artistes including: Bollywood hip hop and bhangra by Raaga DC co-founders, Trisha Miglani and Shreya Navile, who were joined by Ram Natarajan; a fusion of eastern and western music by siblings Vikrant and Sid Chawla, on tabla and piano, playing their original compositions; a powerful rendition of an Alicia Keys song, ‘If I Ain’t Got You’, by Zahra Quettawala, accompanied by Esther Kim on piano; a tribute to Lord Krishna in classical Bharatanatyam by Sneha Kripanandan and Amulya Velamakanni, students of the Bethesda-based Natananjali School of Dance founded and directed by Lakshmi Swaminathan who is ever willing to support worthy causes; Placid Blues, a Jazz band whose members are Montgomery County High School students – Nitul Purohit, Weling Tan, William Chen, and Shayan Sadegh; mesmerizing Kathak fusion dances by Palak Shah and Pallavi Swarup, students of Nrityaki Dance Academy headed by Shweta Misra; a musical melange by members of the SAPAN Institute featuring singers Ram Narayan and Natasha Chopra, together with musicians Jay Kansara and Jacob Kohn; a duet by Shreya and Ellie O’Reilly; fast-paced Bollywood dances by Suhita Roy and Shohini Gupta; and the lead artiste of Meenakshi Dance presenting Bollywood and classical style Mujra.

The finale featured a bharatanatyam performance by Sahana Ramani, Amrutha Kadali and Navya Kalale, students of the Srishti School of Dance.

Christi Clark, Education and Outreach Coordinator at IMCC, thanked Shreya for organizing the entertaining, benefit event.

Shreya told us that she volunteers a couple of days a week at the Center, engaging in recreational activities with the some 25 patients, occasionally cooking and feeding them.

 “We are so fortunate at IMCC to have such wonderful volunteers that help us improve the quality of life of our participants everyday”, said Clark.  “We are always looking for new volunteers”, she added.

At IMCC, she said, “We care for individuals in the early stage of the disease through our memory enrichment programs, and also through the mid and late stages of the disease through our adult day health and resource center.  We are able to see what is still left of the person and not what has been taken by this horrible disease”.

She emphasized, “We are the only dementia-specific adult day center in Northern Virginia and the only center in the Washington area that cares for people into the late stages of the disease.  This helps family members to keep their loved ones at home for a longer period of time”.

Insight became a music and memory care certified facility in 2012, a move which Clark has keenly championed.  She disclosed that the Center is collaborating on a research project with George Mason University to look at the impact of music on dementia.

 “Music and Memory is a program designed to improve the quality of life by giving the person access to the music they love”, she explained.  “It provides therapeutic benefits to participants by providing an individualized playlist”.  So, while Alzheimer’s damages the ability to recall facts, it does not destroy connections between a favorite song and the memory of an event.  Music “decreases their anxiety and improves their mood”, Clark said.

Community Special by MYDOSTI.COM