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This music teacher's video tutorials are bringing songs alive for people who are deaf & hard of hearing

As a keyboardist with nearly 10 years' experience, PR professional Nicole Fernandes was aware of the power of music to heal and build confidence. So, when her colleague Nandita Venkatesan shared her sadness over not being able to enjoy music due to loss of hearing, the conversation stayed in Fernandes' mind.

Venkatesan, a Mumbai-based business journalist, lost her hearing at the age of 24 as a reaction to an anti-tuberculosis injection.

I remember the conversation we had on music and videos on YouTube and we discussed the importance of music and dance in Nandita's life and how suddenly she felt sad that YouTube videos are not user-friendly for hard of hearing individuals. I could totally understand the depth of how deaf people feel when they realize they can't enjoy music videos due to the hearing loss. -Nicole Fernandes, Music Teacher

The words stayed in Fernandes' mind, who teaches music on weekends at the Konark Institute of Performing Art (KIPA) in Vashi, outside Mumbai. It eventually pushed her to take up the challenge of designing video tutorials for people who are deaf and hard of hearing.

She came up with the idea of converting music into numbers with subtitles added. Fernandes pitched the idea to Pooja Ghosh, Head, KIPA and that led to the start of Music Tutorials for the Deaf on KIPA's YouTube page.

In the initial videos, which feature Venkatesan and Fernandes, the subtitles to whatever the latter teaches appear online, while Venkatesan understands each keyboard lesson by lip reading. The aim was to enable everyone, people with and without hearing, to understand basic keyboard tutorials.

For Venkatesan, who shared the experience on Facebook, it was an exciting opportunity to make a new beginning. "I hope this encourages other deaf/hearing impaired folks to take the plunge and bring back music into their lives."

Fernandes recently went solo and launched her own channel on YouTube under the title Music for the Deaf, with plans to add sign language translations in the future.

"My aim is to bring out a realization that no disability is a curse. Instead, one can achieve greater things through music where the silence will speak the language of music. Teaching the keyboard to normal individuals is great but converting music into numbers, especially for deaf people enhances knowledge, teaches patience, and boosts confidence."

Fernandes has also designed home-based and Skype tutorials specifically for deaf people.

"Pre-recorded lesson videos will be shared in the process of conversation with the student and further explanation will be provided through Skype chat. Only one lesson video will be shared in the one-hour session where the keyboard tutor will explain every key, finger placement, pitch converted into number and the song to be played on this musical instrument."

What will be a challenge is attracting funding and investment, for which she hopes to find the right kind of support.

"I do visualize that one-day music will empower a group of hearing-impaired individuals to perform at one of the public events where they will spread the magic of Music!"

You can catch some of that magic in this clip:


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