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Kiran Gandhi Balances Beats for M.I.A. with Business School

Indian-American Kiran Gandhi balances a music career performing with rapper M.I.A. with her academic pursuits at Harvard Business School. John Makely / NBC News

Image: Kiran Gandhi performs with guitarist Teddy Svoronos at the Heartbeat Collective in Jamaica Plain.
Kiran Gandhi grew up most of her life in New York City, the daughter of Indian immigrants, and the oldest of three children. Her introduction to playing drums was an unlikely one, the result of some early childhood rebellion. At summer camp in Maine, Gandhi snuck away from swim activities and stumbled across a drum set in the camp's theater. "I started playing it a little bit, and there was a maintenance man who was sweeping," said Gandhi. "I, for sure, thought he was going to send me back to the camp. But instead, he said, 'hey, let me show you, let me show you a beat...He showed me and I learned something that day. And every day we kept meeting up and he would teach me different rhythms." John Makely / NBC News
Following your own beat: Drummer blends graduate school and a life in music. 2:04
Image: In this  Feb 2002 photo , thirteen year old Kiran Gandhi receives a cymbal for her birthday.
In this February 2002 photo, 13-year-old Kiran Gandhi receives a cymbal for her birthday. Though none of her family members played instruments, Gandhi credits her parents' unwavering support for her and her siblings to pursue their passions, no matter how untraditional. "If any of us had an idea or a thought or a passion," said Gandhi, "I felt like both of my parents were very good about making sure that they supported it. Either by giving us the tools that we needed to go out and do that very thing, or by sitting there and doing it with us." "I actually knew very early on that this was something that I wanted to be doing for a long time." Courtesy of Kiran GandhiIn the
The rhythm of life on stage: Bringing the audience along for the ride. 1:44
Image: Kiran Gandhi, the drummer for rapper MIA, works during a brainstorming session at Harvard Business School's Innovation Lab.
Kiran Gandhi works during a brainstorming session at Harvard Business School's Innovation Lab. Gandhi toured with rapper M.I.A. last summer, and began attending Harvard in the fall. "I think that as a child you grow up being taught that academics, mathematics and sort of the serious subjects are the priority," said Gandhi, "and then arts and humanities and things like music and drumming, and even traveling, things that, quote unquote, 'make you happy,' are the things that you shouldn’t be wasting your time with...I think the best thing parents can do for their kids or someone can do for themselves is if they love something, iterate. Just keep doing it. The rest will follow." John Makely / NBC News