Dancing to the beat of his own piano helped this mathlete find his fit

Music, especially playing the piano, has always helped Rahil Vaknalli connect with people. Growing up playing instruments, Rahil realized he was fortunate to have a family who supported his love of music. Many people around him were discouraged from pursuing music because of its lack of stability as a career choice or they were unable to follow their passion due to financial constraints.

Rahil wanted to spread the joy music brought him; he decided to offer young people opportunities to play music irrespective of their social or economic status. At the age of 17, he created DECIBEL, a music festival designed to showcase the talent of underprivileged students, along with musicians from private, international schools. He approached Brett Lee’s Mewsic India Foundation, an NGO that supports musically inclined children from local slums, to participate in the festival. The proceeds from the DECIBEL were used to sponsor instruments and scholarships for the Mewsic India Foundation students.

Rahil’s other passion is math. When his school didn’t have the framework to support math competitions, Rahil contacted Transition Lab Preparatory School, to collaborate with like minded students to start “Math Pirates,” a Chi Alpha Mu math chapter in India.

When Rahil came to The Red Pen, he was looking for a program abroad that would help him make connections between the things he loves. Having spent summers studying at Brown and Yale he knew that education could be illuminating and diverse. He wanted to find a college that could nurture his interest in cognitive science and the effect of music on the human brain through opportunities for hands-on learning and research. Rahil wanted a vibrant university in an urban center, and he found that in University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)! We helped Rahil brainstorm and link his many interests into a cohesive narrative that highlighted his dynamic interests and his drive.

– Rahil Vaknalli, UCLA

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