Spring Valley Community Concert
Sonic Expressions is what we call our general music education class that is made up of non-musician general education students and students with special needs or students who are medically fragile. The class is designed to merge these groups of students together through the ‘magic of music’ so they form relationships and accomplish common goals.
The purpose of our project was to take this class of over 50 (including their special aids and paraprofessionals) into the community by way of an interactive concert on stage at a nearby retirement community. This concert would place our musicians in a new environment and connect them with the community through performance. In turn, our audience would be able to engage with the students and learn more about them. The concert removes the boundaries and stigmas associated with special need programs.
In addition, the concert was programmed by the students working together to create the community concert. The loading of three busses, set up and tear down was managed by our Tri M honor students, allowing the performers the opportunity to engage directly with the community.
And finally, the concert provided an opportunity for the parents of our students with special needs to see their kids on a stage participating with other students in an equally fun and entertaining community setting. I should add, the parents did not travel with the busses (they were full!) but grew to recognize their students as peers of the average middle school band and members of the community.
Overview of planning and execution process for this project
The director then set the students to preparing their favorite pieces that would demonstrate their skills on the handbells, boom whackers, bucket drumming, electric bases, beatboxing, comedy routines and more. The emphasis was to highlight the student’s unique talents and abilities in a variety show. The show was themed through the opening number (Best Day of My Life) and closing number (How Far I’ll Go).
In addition, special planning had to happen to meet specific medical needs and procedures, medications, critical transportation requirements, accompanying nurse and paraprofessionals. No student was going to be left out!
We have an active Tri-M Musicians Honor Society (middle school) and these model students were tapped to be our official “Show Roadies”. It happens they are all in the marching band and are very adept (and quick) when it comes to moving equipment. They were very instrumental in setting up, ushering, and making the transitions.
Sponsors/charities/volunteers/ other groups involved in the project and the benefits to each.
The Village benefited by learning more about our program and about students with special needs and can add our participation to their own community involvement program.
Mt. Miguel Covenant Village donated $150 towards our budget, the SVA band covered the rest through family donations.
The students involved now have a deeper connection to the community, are a part of its fabric now and carry themselves differently. They are proud to have done something.
Specific Budget Breakdown
- 250.00 for transportation
- 120.00 for T-shirts we screen printed ourselves as a class project
- 80.00 for folding equipment tables
New or recurring project?New Project
Challenges/obstacles that were encountered
While students with special needs are resilient, openminded and full of love, general education middle school students are less so. One of the biggest classroom challenges was getting everyone to buy into the program. I found I could accomplish this by setting down my baton and simply be a guide, allowing each student and student group, or “pod”, to arrive at their own “performance comfort zone” by making their own musical choices. The students discovered they could do things, learn things on their own and suddenly practice became fun. All I had to do was make the final decisions and type up the program.
The other challenges were no more than taking the band into a parade or festival; standard details, paperwork, etcetera.
Measurement of the success/effectiveness of this project?
I measured the success by the community response of pictures and tears- some never thought they would ever see their child performing on stage. Others just amazed at not knowing which kids were which (that was the educational point) and by the quality of the performance.
I measure the success by Mt. Miguel Covenant Village’s invitation to make this a regular event, or perhaps even add a Christmas show.
Advice for someone looking to replicate this project in their own community?
I made one of my bands nearly half special needs (we’re a gen ed class by definition) by reaching out to our special ed department. These kids and their families need exactly what music has to offer. Such a program is not without its challenges, but the best advice is to team up or co teach with a SpEd teacher.