At BMP, we are committed to ensuring that every child has access to the opportunity to make incredible music with support and attention from exceptional teaching artists. Marlene Markard, director of our special needs Beethoven Ensemble, has played a large role in keeping special needs students at JQES connected during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.
Mark Sacco, a Special Education teacher at JQES, speaks about the challenges associated with special needs online learning, and how Ms. Markard's music classes have benefited his students:
"Most of the students are not capable of going online or doing online work independently. The parents and staff have been working extremely hard to make sure the students online experience is appropriate for our special group.
The music program has been a wonderful addition to our class time. Ms. Marlene has done an incredible job of teaching. She was fantastic in the classroom and just as good online. The students are even practicing to do a performance with moves and music. It has been a wonderful experience."
In March, Ms. Markard decided to create asynchronous video classes that her students can access on-demand from their homes, as well as musical care packages complete with a shaker, two rhythm sticks, a scarf, a jingle, and sets of homemade flash cards that represented the symbols and concepts the students had been learning in in-person classes.
Ms. Markard explains what inspired the kits, as well as the creation process.
"For Beethoven Ensemble students who have physical disabilities, have limited speech, and/or struggle with muscular coordination, making music with their bodies and/or voices without access to instruments was very challenging and limited their musical experiences even further. I wanted to change that and give my students as robust and dignified a musical experience as I could in a virtual environment.
Creating these kits took about 2 full months and was a rewarding family project that I enjoyed doing with my son, Julian. Students started receiving kits in November and it was thrilling for me to see them reconnected with instruments again, waving their scarves, and exploring the different sounds these instruments make. Preparing these instrument kits was also an important way for me to stay connected to my students by letting them know that I care about them and their development as young musicians. I greatly appreciate Chris Schroeder and Mark Sacco's support and enthusiasm for this meaningful project."
Ms. Markard's lessons are designed to highlight a variety of key teaching strategies that go beyond general music instruction.
She speaks about the skills she implements, and what students gain from their time in the Beethoven Ensemble.
"Throughout the year, we work on developing music literacy (including recognition of basic rhythms, dynamics, articulations, and notes/syllables); recognizing and identifying composers and musical artists (including disabled musicians); developing language and self-expression (including vocal exercises, singing, articulation exercises, dynamics exercises, exchanging ideas, learning to sing specific songs); social-emotional learning (including building self-confidence, self awareness, social awareness, collaborative skills, relationship-building skills, responsible decision-making, and active listening), facilitating development of gross and fine motor skills, proprioceptive, spatial, and vestibular awareness, and fostering an appreciation of music that I hope will last throughout my students' lives. Classes also provide students with leadership opportunities and class membership activities."
With Ms. Markard's unwavering commitment throughout the pandemic, her students have been able to continue developing their skills and confidence, and are proud to present a rendition of "Virtual Insanity" complete with music and movement.
The final performance came together with the support and enthusiasm of BMP teaching artists performing strings and guitar backing tracks, the JQES special education teachers and administration, and Josh Wareham, BMP's Music Technology Specialist.