Adaptive Music Lessons

Adaptive music lessons give kids a place to be themselves

via NPR

The benefits of music on individuals with autism are widely known. Improved focus, advances in speech and language, and better motor skills. But sometimes it’s about the growth that you can’t quantify in numbers.

On a Tuesday night in a sleepy plaza in Penfield, the Music Education Center is buzzing. Kids are in the waiting room, parents are catching up and students are practicing anything from trombone to piano.

Noah Svokos is a curly haired 13 year old who has been taking piano lessons for 5 years at the center.

The facility is open to anyone but they have a focus on adaptive music lessons, for individuals with disabilities.

Noah’s dad Tony Svokos brought him to class, and said over the years he’s seen his sons confidence grow, his memory get sharper, and he can remember notes and song titles and adapt these skills to his day to day life. Tony says places like this center are essential.

“Like it or not, there is a bit of a stigma still when it comes to special needs kids, kids who have autism. Thankfully, the awareness is growing and there are a lot more programs now. Even at his school he’s got integrated classrooms.”

A lot of Noah’s classmates have grown up around kids with autism Tony says, so they don’t treat them any differently.

“But there are a lot of other places out there who have no contact with kids like this. And it can be nerve wracking sending your kid to a place like that where you’re not sure if they’re going to be accepted, you’re not sure if their insecurities are going to get really, really magnified by negative experiences.”

The music education center started in 2004, co-owner Sarah Jamison tells me. As a graduate of the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam, she never really pictured her career going down this path, but the students kept her coming back.

“It really brings a lot of light into their lives. There’s a lot of other things they might be struggling with in school or at home and music ends up being something that they’re really good at and that they can be proud of and show off to their friends and family. And that’s probably the best thing about our job is just seeing that.”

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One thought on “Adaptive music lessons give kids a place to be themselves”

  1. I like this so much 🙂 🙂 🙂 I’m currently working on the f# minor nocturne! they’re beautiful pieces.
    Don’t get me wrong, you have to be strong and confident to be successful in just about anything you do – but with music, there’s a deeper emotional component to your failures and successes. If you fail a chemistry test, it’s because you either didn’t study enough, or just aren’t that good at chemistry (the latter of which is totally understandable). But if you fail at music, it can say something about your character. It could be because you didn’t practice enough – but, more terrifyingly, it could be because you aren’t resilient enough. Mastering chemistry requires diligence and smarts, but mastering a piano piece requires diligence and smarts, plus creativity, plus the immense capacity to both overcome emotional hurdles, and, simultaneously, to use that emotional component to bring the music alive.
    Before I started taking piano, I had always imagined the Conservatory students to have it so good – I mean, for their homework, they get to play guitar, or jam on their saxophone, or sing songs! What fun! Compared to sitting in lab for four hours studying the optical properties of minerals, or discussing Lucretian theories of democracy and politics, I would play piano any day.

    But after almost three years of piano at Orpheus Academy, I understand just how naïve this is. Playing music for credit is not “easy” or “fun” or “magical” or “lucky.” Mostly, it’s really freakin’ hard. It requires you to pick apart your piece, play every little segment over and over, dissect it, tinker with it, cry over it, feel completely lame about it, then get over yourself and start practicing again. You have to be precise and diligent, creative and robotic. And then – after all of this – you have to re-discover the emotional beauty in the piece, and use it in your performance.

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