Saturday, February 26, 2011

Does Music Really Make A Difference? A short story...

I have been teaching music and movement classes in Emma's school on fridays for over a month now.  It has by far become my most favorite day of the week.  It's not that it's easy, in fact, it's quite challenging. There are about 100-150 kids in each group, and they are all so excited that sometimes controlling the chaos is well...let's just say, it can get quite loud and energetic.  But they all come around eventually, and do what I ask them to and it seems to be going quite well.  Part of the joy that I get out of it is that satisfaction of being able to handle such an enthusiastic crowd of 5-7 year olds, and to have them walk away singing new songs.

In this school, there are 2 classrooms of special needs children.  My schedule allows me to spend a little extra time with them in their rooms after the large groups.  I am fortunate to have this time with them, and they seem to really like being able to touch the guitar and have their questions answered.  However, their needs are so varied that I sometimes have a hard time figuring out how to accommodate them as a group.  After my first one on one class with them,  I left feeling a bit confused.  I know that they enjoyed my class, but am I really going to be able to make a difference, or is it just entertainment?

Two weeks ago, I was in the middle of teaching my second group class of the day - my pre-k and k classes.  These classes are really more like interactive mini-concerts, and are held in the multi-purpose room.  I saw one of my students who has special needs walk by the door in the hallway.  Well, he didn't really walk by, he actually stopped still in the doorway, turned to the group and began actively listening to the music. I noticed that his Physical Therapist (PT) was there and assumed that they were on their way to a session.  This little boy (we'll call him Johnny) stayed in the doorway for quite some time and I waved to him.  He smiled and waved back.  A few seconds later, I saw his PT speak to him, and then Johnny came in and joined the group.  He sat right down in the middle of another class (children that he did not know), and began to participate.  All of the teachers made him feel welcome, and he stayed for the rest of the class.   
After wards, the children left and I immediately became busy talking with some of the teachers and  taking down my sound equipment.  I didn't see Johnny again that day.
The PT came up to me a few minutes later and said "That was quite amazing what happened with Johnny." 
"I know." I said.  "I am sorry if I took him away from your session. Thank you for letting him participate."
"Well, I didn't have a choice." he told me.  "Johnny stood there in the doorway and would not follow me, and then informed me that he was going to your class instead." he said with a smile.
"Really?" I asked.  
"Yes. And did you see what happened after your performance?"
"No" I answered.
"You see, normally after our sessions, Johnny doesn't walk up the stairs.  He can walk down, no problem, but he doesn't ever go up.  He complains and drags his feet and most times I have to help him, or even carry him back up to his classroom."
"Oh, I didn't know that." I said.  I wasn't really sure where this story was going...
"So, after your performance,  he turned to me and said "Good show!" and walked up to his classroom. 

I looked at him.  He had a glowing look on his face as he looked directly at me.  
I realized that I had tears in my eyes. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Suzi Shelton Band performs LIVE at Southpaw with Little Miss Ann

We are so excited to kick off our spring with Chicago's own Little Miss Ann and her band at one of our favorite hotspots - Southpaw! This concert will benefit a local preschool that is near and dear to my heart, Brooklyn Free Space, and will be held on Saturday, March 5th at 12:30pm.