‘Out of the Box’: A Podcast that Brings Music Educators to the Forefront
The series is hosted by musicians and educators Nush Lewis and Shanelle Rodrigues
Back in 2020, Mumbai-based harpist/singer-songwriter Nush Lewis – who also runs music education platform OffSet – conducted a video interview series to help promote music educators. “I got a lot of positive feedback from people about the interview series, which led me to think of other aspects of education that would be great to create discussions around,” says Lewis.
That idea has now snowballed into a podcast called Out of the Box that Lewis hosts alongside Shanelle Rodrigues from Shanelle’s Piano Studio. After launching season one earlier this year, they are now back with season two, which kicked off this month.
In this interview with Rolling Stone India, Lewis and Rodrigues talk to us about various aspects of music education for students and teachers, the upcoming episodes on their podcast, future plans and more.
I’m aware that music education is important to both of you. Tell me about the current state of it in the country and if there are developments being made.
Lewis: Personally, I feel like music education is in a very interesting space right now. A large number of educators in India still teach privately, which [is a practice that] has been around for decades. And then over the past 10 to 15 years we’ve seen a rise in music teachers in academic schools, who do a little more than just hosting a singing class. Let’s not forget the number of professional music schools that have opened nationwide over the last 15 years. You also have digital music education companies that have made music education so accessible. It’s a great melting pot for sure, but I worry about the structure of the system.
Rodrigues: As Nush mentioned, it is an interesting space, and we are seeing many people looking to pursue the arts more seriously than before. While the providers of music education are increasing and music is being made more accessible, I feel there is still quite a bit of an imbalance in providing quality music education. It is important to maintain a high standard so that students do not need to seek opportunities abroad if they wish to pursue it further.
When it comes to music education, what are some of the core elements needed in making sure students are on the right path?
Lewis: Communication. Communication with the student is essential. Setting achievable goals and outcomes so as to set your students up for success is so important. That will keep them wanting to explore more and more in music.
Rodrigues: As educators, we would like to provide students with the skills, inspiration and confidence they need to embrace any musical opportunity that comes along their way. This could mean setting expectations collaboratively, exploring music and their instrument as much as possible, collaborations with other musicians as well as giving them opportunities to share their music. A growth towards independence can help them decide their path and place in the music space.
I saw some of the guests you had in season one and those to come in season two – tell me why you decided on speaking to these particular individuals.
Lewis: With season one, it was about educators specifically and what they do and how they do it. But after Shanelle came on board, we wanted to do more than just educator interviews. It was important for us to look at this more holistically than just conversations. We wanted to speak to parents, neuroscientists and social media educators, while still keeping in mind the system we come from.
Rodrigues: Yes, through season two we wanted to reach and relate to a wider audience by exploring different approaches and perspectives to music education.
What do you hope people will take away from the podcast?
Lewis: Personally, for me, I would like to see teachers not be afraid to try new things, and step out of line a little bit. I’m hoping these conversations will inspire them to try new things and explore more in their methodologies. We get so caught up in teaching the lesson that we sometimes forget to look around at everything else we’re impacting as educators, things like mental health and empathy, which, I believe, is a far bigger reward than a grade eight certificate.
Rodrigues: The individuals we spoke to have such brilliant ideologies and have been creating a big impact in their spaces. Through the podcast, I hope that people gain confidence, move out of their comfort zone and start engaging with other members in the music community so that the impact of the arts can really be seen and at a much larger scale. A strong community is what will keep us going!
Do you see Out of the Box expanding in the future in different ways?
Lewis: I think this podcast is our stepping stone to eventually starting our own music education conference. I’ve spoken about this to Shanelle even before she came on board for the podcast. We truly believe that the community of educators needs to communicate more. Everyone right now is in their own bubble and that doesn’t help anyone. But if we, at OffSet, can be that catalyst to change things, then we’re all for it.
Click here to listen to ‘Out of the Box.’