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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What learning piano in my twenties taught me — and why you should try it

by Rob Price via the Business Insider.

When I was about seven or eight, I went for a taster violin lesson at school. The idea was to get an idea for the instrument, and see if I wanted to learn properly. I enjoyed it — but the expected lessons never materialised.

A few years later, I asked my mother why: Apparently the tutor had refused to teach me.

It’s fair to say that I am not a natural musician.

But at the start of 2016, I resolved to change that. I decided to learn the piano.

It was a year of immense frustrations, and deep satisfaction — and endless Philip Glass. It expanded my horizons, and forced me to confront my failings head on. And for that reason alone, I’d recommend it to anyone.

Why? I wanted to do something totally new

I’m 24 years old, I live in London, and I’ve gone through life without knowing the first thing about music. I love to listen to it — I’ve got a pretty big collection, and I go to gigs regularly. But how it’s made has always been one great big opaque mystery to me.

Both of my brothers play — saxophone and guitar, respectively — but the extent of my musical education was tapping out basic beats on a glockenspiel and learning the first few bars of “Neighbours” on the piano at school. So why did I take the plunge now? Well, there were a few reasons:

  • I wanted to challenge myself. 2016 was the start of my third year living in London. I’d settled into a routine, and wanted to add some variety to my life — and something that would push me in a new direction.
  • I wanted to do something totally new. Learning music for the first time isn’t like taking up a new team ball-sport, or an unusual arts-and-crafts activity. Music is an entirely new category of human endeavour I have never meaningfully engaged in before. That makes it pretty exciting — and intimidating.
  • I love music. Pretty self-explanatory. I hoped that learning an instrument for the first time would enrich my appreciation of the artform.

I also set myself a few goals — some strict, and some more nebulous.

  • Pass my Grade 1 piano exam by the end of 2016. If you’re not familiar with the system, you can take exams as you learn instruments, from Grade 1 through to Grade 8. A clear target of reaching Grade 1 by the end of the year would give me something to work towards, a way to measure my success or failure.
  • Improve my knowledge of classical music. I had no strict timeframe for this, or a set point when it would be “completed.” But I’ve never known my Bach from my Beethoven, and I wanted to change that.
  • Learn “Metamorphosis II,” by Philip Glass. This was a longer-term goal, beyond 2016 — it’s a beautiful, flowing, and technically tricky bit of music that I wanted to work towards as I got better.

How did it all go? The short version is that it was fantastic — I’m extremely glad I did it, and I’d strongly urge to anyone thinking about taking up an instrument to do it, whatever your age.

It wasn’t all plain sailing, however.

Learning something new is a lesson in humility and patience

Note: The following sections go into some detail on what and how I learned. If you just want to know whether I passed the exam or not, skip down to the “arcane mystery” section below.

Let me make this clear: Piano is hard. Really hard. It requires you to think in a way you’ve never done before, juggling a thousand balls simultaneously. Interpret the music. Keep the tempo. Vary the volume. Move both hands independently of one-another. Make sure it all actually sounds good.

You know that brain-straining feeling when you try and multiply three three-digit numbers together? That’s what it felt like to be interpreting and playing music on the fly.

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It’s never too late to learn piano!

86 year old 1-1686-year-old piano student says passing grade one was a ‘pleasant surprise’

Read the article here

Or learn more about piano lessons for all ages here!