College of Music offers program for pre-college students with autism

Posted at 12:56 PM, Jul 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-07 12:56:37-04

A first-of-its kind summer piano festival through the MSU College of Musicwill provide advanced music students on the autism spectrum a chance to preview life as a collegiate musician. The program will run July 24-31.

The 2016 Celebrating the Spectrum: A Festival of Music and Lifewill immerse five pre-college students in a daily schedule that emulates a week in the life of a music major in a college setting.

The festival culminates with a concert, free and open to the public, at 4 p.m. July 30 at Cook Recital Hall, featuring students, faculty and student mentors.

“Our No. 1 goal is to provide an incredibly inspiring, high-level artistic experience for these students,” said Derek Polischuk, MSU associate professor of piano and director of piano pedagogy. “We’d also like to improve perceptions families may have about the possibility of having their student with ASD attend a university.”

Polischuk teaches piano to students who are on the autism spectrum through MSU’s Community Music School. He discussed the festival idea with Professor of Piano Deborah Moriarty, chair of the piano area. The two then contacted the RAIND Program, the MSU-based institute for Research in Autism, Intellectual and other Neurodevelopmental Disabilities, which serves autistic students through research, outreach, artistry and education.

“We’re a multi-disciplinary effort, and bringing music in adds to the program,” said Ian Gray, a creator of the RAIND Program. “As faculty, we’re constantly learning from one another. I love thinking about and seeing all things our university can do to improve the lives of others.”

The eight-day festival will include daily master classes on piano repertoire taught by Moriarty and Polischuk, hour-long lectures by national and international educators, guided pilates and lunch, dinner and evening activities on the MSU campus.

Guest lecturers include Randall Faber, master teacher for the World Piano Pedagogy Conference and co-author of bestselling book "Piano Adventurers;" Lauren Harris, MSU professor of psychology presenting childhood influences in “Music Matters;” and Michael Thaut, a National Research Award recipient and University of Toronto music professor sharing neurologic research about music and brain function.

Each student will be paired with a College of Music student mentor, while the MSU Office of Disability Services will consult with families and aids about special accommodations students may need.

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

Celebrating the Spectrum: A Festival of Music and Life, is sponsored by MSU as part of the RAIND Program.

Source: MSU Today