By Rhoda Bernard
One of my great joys is experiencing the arts. I am a singer and pianist, specializing in Jewish music in Yiddish and Hebrew. I gig regularly, playing this music that I love at private parties, synagogues, and folk festivals whenever I can. Playing music keeps me grounded in what I love, focused on my passion, and in touch with the most meaningful part of my life.
I have been told that I sang before I spoke – and if you know me, that says a lot, because I am quite a talker! My fondest childhood memories are of singing – songs from the radio, show tunes, melodies I made up on the spot, and songs that I learned at our temple.
My parents, though not art makers themselves, were true arts lovers. When I was growing up, we regularly went to exhibits, concerts, plays, and performances – whether they were in our suburban community or twelve miles away in Boston. I grew up being a viewer, a listener, and an audience member, in addition to being a performing musician.
It is no surprise, then, that I have devoted my professional life to ensuring that all individuals have meaningful access to and participation in the arts. I am the Managing Director of the Berklee Institute for Arts Education and Special Needs, a new Institute that stems from the recent merger between Berklee College of Music and Boston Conservatory. The Institute is a catalyst for the inclusion of individuals with disabilities in all aspects of visual and performing arts education. Our work has three main pillars, all of which focus on increasing access to arts education for all students: Arts Education Programs for individuals ages 3 to adult; one-of-a-kind Graduate Programs in Music Education and Autism; and Professional Development for the field. We are dedicated to ensuring that all people receive a meaningful arts education, and that they are taught by educators who have the tools and support that they need to reach every student.
Our various Arts Education Programs include:
- Private Music Lessons – on any instrument or voice, as well as composition/arranging, and music theory – for individuals ages 6 and up.
- Music Classes for Young Children – caregiver-and-me style classes for children ages 3 to 8 to develop basic musical skills and interact with many kinds of music.
- The Inner Harmony Ensemble – a choral group that includes individuals with disabilities and individuals without disabilities, making music together through singing and playing instruments.
- The iPad ensemble – where students ages 9 and up create, explore, and perform music together using iPads, Skoogs, and other music technologies.
- The Rock Band – small groups where students ages 9 and up learn and perform popular music together.
- The Day Sessions: ABLE Summer Music Program – a week-long summer music day camp for individuals with disabilities to study, explore, and play music, and to learn from musicians with disabilities who provide clinics and concerts.
- Step by Step! – two adaptive dance programs, one for students with Down Syndrome, and one for students on the autism spectrum, that provide movement instruction and activities.
And coming in Fall 2018:
We will be piloting a theater program for students with disabilities that will become a full-fledged program in the spring of 2019.
We will be piloting a duet program to prepare students to play music in ensemble settings. This program will be an official program beginning in spring 2019.
These programs are taught by our dedicated staff of instructors, all of whom are students or alumni from our Graduate Programs in Music Education and Autism. I am very, very proud of the outstanding teaching by our instructors and the fantastic training and support provided by our consultants.
Currently, we serve more than 160 families every Saturday in these programs. If you’re interested in learning more about our work, please follow the links and go to our website. You can sign up to be on our newsletter mailing list, where you will learn about our programs, events, and initiatives. You can fill out an application for the program you are interested in by clicking the red APPLY button at the bottom of each program’s web page. Please also note that financial aid is available for families who qualify. There is a link to the financial aid application on every program page.
At the Berklee Institute for Arts Education and Special Needs, we truly believe that the arts better the lives of everyone, and we are deeply committed to making it possible for every person to learn, experience, and participate meaningfully in the arts. We feel that access to the arts, arts learning, and arts experiences is a civil right, and we work hard every day to spread the great joy of the arts to every single person.