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By: Priya Kabo

The Naad Sangeet Pathsala was set up in 2008 to provide musical training particularly to conflict affected, orphans and destitute children and others to establish self esteem, mainstream in the society and enhance confidence for overall transformation through the power of music. The music school was founded by Nepal’s first professional woman tabla player, Sarita Mishra.

Sarita Mishra was born and raised in Pashupati into a musical family. Her father was a classical musician and instilled in Sarita a fascination for music at a very early age. She grew up in a home where a multitude of musicians from all parts of the world would gather for musical feasts, especially during Maha Shivaratri and Bala Chaturthi.

Music was in her blood. She feels fortunate that her growing years were filled with the sound of music and the support of a loving family to pursue her passion. “There was no discrimination because I was a girl. And fortunately that allowed me to thrive and excel in what I do”

At a very young age, she was already able to play 10 different taals without any formal music training. After passing SLC, she decided to take music lessons from Pandit Homnath Upadhyay, a tabla exponent. She studied music as well as Hindi literature and painting from the Lalit Kala Campus. On completing her degree, she began her career as a music teacher with Padma Kanya Campus. During this time, she also started performing in concerts. Sarita Mishra has played in over 3,000 concerts. As a female tabla player, there were incidents where her skills and authenticity were questioned, but that only made her work harder.

It was during a concert in Banaras where she received immense praise for her talent that she felt a deep longing to do more. She not only wanted to attain mastery over her craft but also help others through her music. “Music was something that gave me peace, discipline and excitement to live. I knew that my talent for music could be shared for greater good.”

While in Nepalgunj for a concert she saw fewer girls than boys in the area. She thought it odd and asked a local. She was told that all the girls were either sent to the city to work or were married off early. She was disturbed by the discrimination. She began to talk about this among friends and decided to take the leap and raise funds for the Naad Sangeet Pathsala in an effort to bring music therapy to such children.

She started with only four children and in the last nine years the number has grown significantly. Over 450 children have benefitted from the school. Scholarships are given to the children, mainly girls from deprived communities, although the school is open to everyone. Today there are 10 teachers as well. 90% of the students cannot pay and concerts are organised by the school to raise funds. “Not only does this raise funds needed for the school but it also allows children a platform to show off their hard work. At the concerts, children play in a group, teaching them the importance of team work and ownership of their work, an important skill that one needs in life.” Strong and independent, Sarita Mishra has dedicated her life to the school and the children.