Monday, November 3, 2008

More Music Mastro

Ours was a weekend full of music that ran the gamut from Kibbles Rockin' Clubhouse hits to Coldplay covers to Mussorgsky's Hopak from "Sorochinsky Fair." Scratching in my mind are partial tracks from each of these as I face Monday morning. My husband was hanging on by the hair of his chinny chin chin to keep up with the whirlwind schedule the kids and I had memorized.  Reid sang at least 4 times from the Walk Now for Autism stage on Saturday.  Allie played flute in the first San Diego Youth Symphony concert of the season. High brow, low brow, we were all over town.

The San Diego Youth Symphony honors a music educator each year who has devoted their career to developing young musicians.  Dean Hickman, chosen this year, gave a brief but moving acceptance speech. You know I love music and its myriad benefits are already swirling around like visions of sugarplums in my head. I spent last week helping write the mission statement and vision for Banding Together, a non-profit organization newly established "to make music with people with special needs to unleash their creative potential and connect in community." (I've memorized that after tweaking and typing it so many times.)  

So, Mr. Hickman's sentiments are ringing in my ears.  As he eloquently said, music is the universal language.  By teaching it, we prepare future leaders of the world with character, discipline, and skills in every discipline from math and physics to diplomacy and foreign language.  His own son grew up in the ranks of the SDYS and is now a principal trumpet player for a symphony in the midwest. He told of international travel opportunities where students unable to communicate one word of each other's language could sit down and engage at length over a piece of Mozart music.  So strong is the language of music. Agreed.

Given our family dynamic, I couldn't help but notice one itty bitty inaccuracy. When the inimitable conductor touted his truly outstanding program, he pointed out the beauty of this annual concert is that it features all five levels of the SDYS program thereby displaying the development and progression of musicians through every ability level. Well...almost every ability.  

I am not suggesting that the SDYS take on students with diagnosed disability. But rather, wouldn't it be nice if a similar program existed that really was fully inclusive? Well, it just soon may! 

Maybe not in the classical vein but with a similar goal of developing musical talent at all levels. Only a few precedents exist that I have been able to unearth. The Naturals is a band in Chicago founded by music therapists at the Creative Music Exchange. They have attained attention from the media here if you want to hear them.

Keys to the Studio in Toronto is another one.  People inside and outside the disability world are excited about this place.  News coverage lists the professionals who volunteer and connect under the studio roof.  Listening to the CBC audio interview with founders, John Jowitt and Salina Eldon, gives me goosebumps.  As he says, "music is an open, infinite field that allows for all kinds of sound.  It is also a method of communication and a way of seeing what's in peoples' minds. The connection that you develop when playing music with someone is very strong...and leads to social connection..which is really helpful integrating people with each other."  I want to meet this guy!

In order to allow artistic expression and build trust, there is no right and wrong at Keys to the Studio.  Doesn't this smack wonderfully of Greenspan's Floortime and RDI?  By following the child's lead, withholding preconceived expectations and accepting each other's ideas as valuable, we build relationship and engagement.  As this generation of autism grows up, the world will need more programs like this for teens and young adults.

As I manned the MTCCA booth last Saturday at the Walk, I was quickly reminded how much music has driven and transformed Reid's development.  I could honestly say to the throngs of parents filing through the resource fair:  "Reid grew up the songs in the In Harmony curriculum. Before they were published, Angela used them in her private sessions with him."  "Until age 8, everything he knew he'd learned through music" (counting, the alphabet, greetings, sharing, Bible verses, the Lord's prayer, days of the week, months of the year, continents).  "Music engages him instantly because with it he can access both sides of his brain." 

We call her Lady Babyish now, but the female voice on an old Discovery Toys (check out the new Autism Program on their site) "Sounds Like Fun" cassette was his first teacher.  She covered a lot of ground with him at naptime, bedtime, and drive time.  Thankfully, we've progressed from there to more age-appropriate musical selections.  Much to my dismay, my car radio is now tuned to Star 94 and I am having to edify "Laura's Dirt" and Jeff and Jer's morning show on a regular basis.  Reid, "you know 'dirt' is actually gossip which is harmful. Remember what Judy Rogers (another awesome early musical educator in Bible literacy) sang about the seven things God hates"? Be that as it may, music remains a great vehicle for lifetime learning, recreation, and "therapy" at any level.

The vision for Banding Together includes a recording studio space where professional and amateur musicians, of truly ALL abilities, can pursue their passion together. Turning obsession into vocation as Temple Grandin exemplifies and advocates in her book, "Developing Talents," can happen--not in a vacuum--but in community with others who share the same passion. Through mentorship, jam sessions, workshops, open mic nights and recording opportunities, we intend to take the goals of the SDYS to the "n"th degree. Stay tuned...

As they make music they will sing, "All my fountains are in you." 
Psalm 87:6-7

So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. 
Matthew 25:24-26

But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. 
1 Corinthians 7:6-8

There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him.  
Proverbs 6:15-17

1 comment:

  1. I think we need a spoken universal language as well!

    However which one should it be? The British learn French, the Australians study Japanese, and the Americans prefer Spanish. Why not decide on a common language, taught worldwide, in all nations?

    An interesting video can be seen at A glimpse of Esperanto can be seen at