Riya ’23 connects youth, older adults through music

Inspired by the universality of music, Riya Narayan '23 runs an international volunteer organization that performs music for assisted living centers and memory care centers.
By Sierra Smith, Communications Specialist

“Music has always been just a huge part of my life,” Riya Narayan ’23 smiled.

In addition to her schoolwork, Riya plays piano and violin and sings in an acapella group. Still, in her freshman year, she found yet another way to weave music into her life — Riya began what has become Treats & Tunes, an international, youth-run, volunteer organization that performs music for assisted living centers and memory care centers throughout the United States and Canada. 

“My love of music was something I always kind of kept to myself, but I wanted to start sharing it with other people in case it could help them in the way it’s been such a source of happiness for me,” Riya said.

Riya began her pursuit to share her passion with others by visiting the assisted living center near her home in Franklin with her mom and two close friends. She performed songs and brought homemade treats to share afterwards while socializing with the residents.

“I remember having conversations with this one lady named Roberta about how she used to be on Broadway; it was fascinating,” Riya shared. “I’ve learned so much from the residents because they’ve experienced so much of life that I haven’t yet.” 

Riya immediately fell in love with the rush of fulfillment she got from the time she spent with the residents. Even more so than the performance itself, the conversation and connection that her visits fostered left Riya with an overwhelming sense of gratification.

“I can’t really describe the joy that I would always get from the time I spent with the residents, but I wanted other people to feel that,” she said. 

And thus, Treats & Tunes was born. Riya began recruiting other young, local musicians to join her, and when the coronavirus pandemic halted in-person visits, she realized the organization’s potential to grow. 

“I wanted to keep doing performances, so I started working on the logistics of what a virtual performance would look like, and I just realized that if I could do a virtual performance locally, then I could do one anywhere,” Riya shared. 

Having previously attended a summer program at Berklee College of Music, Riya reached out to friends from the program living in New York, California, and Michigan to serve as program ambassadors for their respective areas. She cold called more assisted living centers than she could count, and with patience and persistence, began booking several virtual programs. 

“When Riya told me about the work she was doing, I was moved,” said HS Counselor Beth Eberl, who is Riya’s advisor. “It’s one thing to have a heart for service and want to help others, but to take that initiative and carry out such a wonderful idea to such successful execution, all at a time when so many felt defeated by the barriers brought on by the pandemic, is an inspiring reminder of all that our students are capable of.”  

With the organization now in its second year, Treats & Tunes has brought over 30 virtual performances to residents in care facilities locally and internationally, as well as eight in-person performances. Riya has grown the organization to a leadership team of 10 ambassadors, social media designers, and outreach coordinators, and is looking forward to more local, in-person performances, especially as the holiday season approaches. 

“I feel like anyone can get music, it’s not like a super niche subject, so this is an easy way for all types of people and people of all ages to connect,” Riya said. “It’s been such an incredible experience so far.” 
    • Riya Narayan '23 chats with an assisted living facility resident after a Treats & Tunes performance. Photo courtesy of Treats & Tunes.

    • Riya along with other young musicians she recruited to perform during a virtual Treats & Tunes Show. Photo courtesy of Treats & Tunes.

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