At Spectrum360, engaging with music is a way to gain confidence as well as have fun. Whether singing or playing along with an instrument, offers Linda Feldman, A360 Music Program Director for 28 years, every student can participate.
“I want the kids to feel good about themselves…to feel happy with what they’re doing – that’s my philosophy,” she says.
Mrs. Feldman teaches music classes at Academy360 Lower and Upper schools. She also conducts the Middle School and High School choruses, organizes A360 Lower School holiday concerts, stages graduation programs, and serves as director – for both dialogue and music – of the Upper School’s bi-annual musical.
In her music classes, there’s a place for everyone, no matter their developmental level. This inclusive approach means one of Mrs. Feldman’s challenges is to find activities that all students can take part in.
“Two students may be able to sing, but others may be non-verbal. I pick music that can be sung, but that allows other students to play instruments or move to the beat.” She continues, “I always say, let’s do whatever we can to have each student participate. I don’t care if they’re doing it right, as long as they’re having fun doing it their way.”
The focus is on engaging with sound, creating movement, interacting with other students, and enjoying the experience. The confidence the students develop in performing carries over into their other classes and their daily lives.
“It’s a success-based program,” Mrs. Feldman explains. “I want everyone to feel successful after they finish a lesson. I don’t want them to think ‘this is too hard for me.’ I want them to feel good about what they do here. Whether they are older students learning about composers or little kids playing the instruments, I want them to come away happy.”
Each year there is an instrument theme in the classroom. One year Mrs. Feldman introduced the students to bucket drums – which are exactly what they sound like! She turned the kids loose on the buckets and they had tremendous fun. They really picked up on it and learned the rhythms they wanted to play. Mrs. Feldman was delighted that even students who normally needed prompting in class were interested in doing this activity independently.
“Music talks to everybody. Children respond to music. Even if they aren’t able to verbalize – they can move. I’ve seen children who can’t speak get up on stage to perform,” she says.
And they love being on stage! Taking part in the A360 Upper School musical play is a huge source of fun for Mrs. Feldman and the students. Previous productions have included The Little Mermaid, The Wizard of Oz and The Sound of Music.
It’s also a great deal of work. Mrs. Feldman’s The students work tirelessly throughout the year to bring their very best to the production, practicing every facet of the play individually and as a group. There’s a part for everyone in the play who would like to participate, whether taking a lead role, using their assitive communication devices to participate, or performing with props. For example, in the Little Mermaid, one-to-one aides dressed in black on stage prompted students acting as extras in the production. Students and families, from preschool to our Young Adult Program, love the music program. It’s great for parents and families to see their children participating in the various musical programs on a stage, wearing costumes, and participating in an activity that is part of every school’s experience.
“The students love it. They love singing in the microphone, they’re comfortable because they practice for their performances. And If you have confidence in one skill, it can transfer to other areas.”
Judging by the smiling faces all around at the plays, holiday concerts, and graduations, it’s clear that the music program is a great success, an integral part of providing “options across a lifetime,” and fulfills our promise to focus on our students’ abilities rather than their disabilities.
Lisa Crouch is the Assistant to the Public Information Officer. Prior to working at Spectrum360, she worked at Yahoo, MSN, The Bergen Record, and other media outlets. She has a BA in English Literature from Columbia University. She is the proud aunt of an Academy360 Lower School student. In her off time, Lisa is a digital artist and writer.