Skip to main content

GUEST POST: Music Lessons for Autistic Spectrum Students: Part 2

In Boston

Music Lessons for Students on the Autism Spectrum
In The Boston Conservatory Program for Students on the Autism Spectrum (www.bostonconservatory.edu/autism), we have been providing private musical instrument lessons to children and adults (age 9 and up) on the autism spectrum for five years. Our young students have studied piano, voice, violin, string bass, trumpet, guitar, and electric bass with trained graduate students in Music Education here at the Conservatory. Thanks to a team of consultants and trainers, the graduate students receive ongoing support and a great deal of training to work with these individuals. Over the last five years, we have had 15-25 students in the program in a given year. Enrollment has been between 22 and 25 students for the last few years.

The lessons take place on Saturday mornings here in Boston. The first semester of lessons begins on the first Saturday in October and runs until early December. We start up in early February for our second semester of lessons, which goes until early May. Each semester includes 9 private instrument lessons (weekly), 9 weekly check-ins via phone or Skype, and a final recital in May. All of our students perform about 5 minutes of music at the recital, which is held in our largest recital hall here on campus.

Unlike other music programs for this population, which tend to be music therapy programs, this is a music lessons program. Our main goal is to improve the students’ musical skills and to foster their love of music. Whether they continue with music as fans and casual players, or as music majors in college, the important thing from our perspective is that they grow as musicians and continue to enjoy having music as a part of their lives.

The program’s tuition is $1000 per semester. Financial aid is available for families who qualify, and there is a financial aid application on our website. Interested families should print out and submit all three forms on the website:
-          The application form
-          The intake questionnaire
-          The financial aid application (if applicable)
These materials should be sent directly to me at rbernard@bostonconservatory.edu or to my mailing address, which is
Rhoda Bernard
Director, Boston Conservatory Program for Students on the Autism Spectrum
The Boston Conservatory
31 Hemenway Street
Boston, MA 02115
Once the application materials have been received, the family is contacted for the next steps of the application process.

Any questions about the program or about our application process can be directed to me via email at rbernard@bostonconservatory.edu or via phone at 617-912-9104.

(IF THERE ARE ANY OTHER PROGRAMS OF THIS SORT IN OTHER CITIES, PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT OR EMAIL ME. I want to get the word out to as many parents and students as possible.)
What We’ve Learned About Autism and Music
Over these last several years, we have learned a great deal about music teaching and learning with this particular population. Some lessons include:
"90-95% of our population has perfect pitch"
-          Perfect pitch occurs much more frequently in our population of students on the autism spectrum than in the general population. A full ninety to ninety-five percent of our students in this program have perfect pitch, while the incidence of perfect pitch in the general population is less than one in 10,000. This has brought with it both rewards (ease of teaching students by rote, strong musical memory skills, etc.) and challenges (difficulties convincing students of the value of learning to read and write musical notation).
-          Learning journeys are less smooth and harder to predict in our population of students on the autism spectrum. There are often long periods of plateaus, as well as instances of backtracking in the learning trajectories of the students in this program. Yet after those moments, often these students make significant progress very quickly. It can be challenging to teach students whose learning looks so different from one’s own. It is difficult to empathize with those students’ learning experiences.
-          Forging effective and productive student-teacher relationships is possible and very rewarding. Many people would assume that it is extremely difficult to nurture a teaching-learning relationship with students on the autism spectrum because of their social challenges. However, we have found that our young students become very close with their instructors, who in many cases end up being like another family member. We encourage long-term student-teacher connections by making it possible for alumni from our program to continue teaching in this program long after graduation. As we all know, effective student-teacher relationships are vital to good teaching and learning.

What We Plan to Learn Going Forward
Thanks to the generous support of an anonymous donor, we now have funding to support two forms of research on this program:
-          A program evaluation of the entire program as a whole, which will help us identify areas of strength and challenges on a programmatic level, to improve our work and think critically about what we do and how we do it.
"(We are conducting) systematic, quantitative and qualitative research."
-          Systematic quantitative and qualitative research into the musical skill development of our students, which will help us to understand how our instruction contributes to their growth as musicians. We hope to study musical skill development in pitch, musical memory, and rhythm, as well as expressiveness (dynamics, phrasing). The research instruments are currently under development and will be piloted this academic year.

We Have So Much to Learn!
Though we have learned a great deal about music, teaching, learning, and autism, there is so much more for us to explore! Last year, thanks to the support of an anonymous donor, we held our first annual conference on Teaching Music to Students on the Autism Spectrum. This gathering of 60 educators, musicians, music educators, and special educators began a conversation that we plan to continue every year. Next year’s conference is already in the planning stages and will take place May 9 and 10, 2014. Stay tuned for more information.

Our website (www.bostonconservatory.edu/autism) includes three videos that share some of what we have already learned, as well as our ongoing questions. We plan to continue to share our learning journey on the website.

Until next time,
Rhoda

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

D, Popsicle Stick and Paper Plate Kalimba!

Back to the Orffabet! Today's letter is D, the shape of the popsicle prongs on a homemade Kalimba!

Lisa Lehmberg of the University of Massachusetts, has agreed to share this portion of her book chapter. Hurray, Lisa! Let's make a Kalimba out of popsicle sticks, paper plates, and some scrap wood!
You'll need: two small, sturdy paper platesone wood block (3cm x 7cm* x 1cm) To convert to inches click here.  This block is inside the plates and keeps them from collapsing.7 cm* piece of thin plywood five flat popsicle sticks7 cm* strip of flimsy wood moldingbrads or small screws (optional)paper gluewood glue*the length is determined by the size of the paper plates. These measurements are for the structural stability of the instrument, NOT the intonation. Just eyeball or loosely measure the wood.
Glue a block of wood to a paper plate near its edge. Glue another paper plate (plates facing each other) to the original plate and the wood block. Spread glue on both the rims of the…

Liquid Ass

So we've had another school shooting. By the time I post this, we will have had a few more. The NRA and President Bone Spurs would like us to arm teachers. Shooting another human being is not natural. Killing is not natural. Self-defense only feels natural when hand to hand combat is involved. Guns, even in the heat of  battle, are abstract. Perhaps the primary reason the United States has a volunteer army instead of a drafted one is that drafted soldiers are far less likely to actually fire at the enemy when the time comes. The kill instinct has to be trained into a soldier. It isn't natural, and it takes its toll on the soul. Plus, you'll probably miss and shoot an innocent student and die anyway.

So I offer a humble alternative. Well, maybe two, but one of them is actually entertaining.

1. ALICE training. Click on this. It's helpful.
2. Liquid Ass


Developed as a joke product, Liquid Ass makes an excellent deterrent to the progress of a shooter. Shooters expect thei…

"P", The Bucket Routine for older students

Today's Orffabet letter is P, for the shape of buckets and sticks when they are in storage in our guest teacher's classroom.

The following post and series of videos is for Upper Elementary, Middle School, or High School Students.  This is a rare opportunity for you to learn a routine without having to go to a workshop or Orff level.  You will learn the routine as your students would.

John is a teacher in the Worcester Public Schools.  He has taught this routine to Upper Elementary students as an after school program.  John's students worked on the routine for an hour or so every day for 6 weeks.  To see John in an earlier post, click here.

The "students" in this video are Orff Level I students in the Worcester Public Schools class of 2010.  They learned the routine in a 90 minute session with Level III students who already knew it.  Here is the routine after those 90 minutes.

This routine, inspired by African dance and Orff body percussion, is well outside the …