Celebrating the Spectrum: A festival of music and life

Posted at 12:52 PM, Jul 10, 2017

Slated for July 16-23, the 2017 “Celebrating the Spectrum: A Festival of Music and Life” will immerse seven pre-college students in a daily schedule that emulates a week in the life of a music major in a college setting.

Students hail from East Lansing to Kansas to Florida, and will be welcomed by MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon at a July 17 concert featuring College of Music graduate students at 6 p.m. The eight-day festival culminates in a second concert on July 22 at 4 p.m. that features participating students, faculty and mentors. Both concerts take place in the college's Cook Recital Hall, Music Building, 333 W. Circle Drive, and are free and open to the public.

“Our number one goal remains the same as our inaugural year,” said Derek Polischuk, MSU associate professor of piano and director of piano pedagogy. “That is providing an incredibly inspiring, high-level artistic experience for students on the autism spectrum. We’re building on last year's successes by adding some exceptional new faculty, and new activities that include jazz improvisation. We’re also offering more things for parents and family members of attendees to do as we build momentum toward making this an annual event for an increasing number of people.”

Polischuk teaches piano to students with autism through MSU’s Community Music School. About two years ago, he discussed the idea of a weeklong, immersive experience with professor of piano Deborah Moriarty, chairperson of the piano area. The two then contacted the RAIND Program — the MSU-based institute for Research in Autism, Intellectual and other Neurodevelopmental Disabilities that serves students with autism through research, outreach, artistry and education.

The festival includes daily master classes on piano repertoire taught by Moriarty and Polischuk. Other elements include hour-long lectures by national and international educators, guided Pilates for R&R, classes in chamber music and jazz improvisation, and lunch, dinner and evening activities on the MSU campus.

Organizers of Celebrating the Spectrum plan to analyze the effectiveness of particular teaching methods, the effect the daily musical routine has on attitudes and behaviors, and how the festival experience affects the perceptions students and families may have about attending college.

“Music is a language that speaks across many borders and often opens unexpected doors,” Moriarty says. [By] “celebrating and highlighting the abilities of young musicians on the autism spectrum, we hope to provide an exciting and enriching experience for students, families and the community as well as increasing awareness of the RAIND program and MSU’s commitment to this project.”

To learn more about the program, visit the Celebrating the Spectrum article online or contact Derek Polischuk at