Mentor Artist William Rossel uses percussion as a learning tool with special needs students.
I have been using percussion as a learning tool with special needs populations from Kindergarten to High School. I have had amazing classes at Redwood High, Terra Linda High and at Venetia Valley Elementary and I am looking forward to new classes starting up very soon at MLK Jr. Academy.
I believe strongly in the therapeutic power of music. Music is a powerful learning tool for any population and helps develop a huge range of skills that aid in cognitive development such as pattern recognition, listening, concentration, memory and communication skills. I have seen all of my students make amazing progress in these and other areas and I am very proud of all of them.
In my classes we use many kinds of percussion instruments (frame drums, bongos, bass drums, tambourines, shakers, woodblocks, etc.) to make beautiful music. We usually start by playing a simple beat and we follow along as the beat speeds up and slows down and as it gets louder and softer.
We also incorporate numbers and counting into our playing to show how numbers and math are an integral part of music.
In addition to these tools, I dedicate a portion of each lesson to “Question and Answer” or “Call and Response” in which I play short rhythmic patterns which the class carefully listens to and then plays back to me. This tool is especially useful in developing listening, memory and concentration skills.
Also, as a method for developing individual communication skills, I give each student a chance to find their own voice by improvising any rhythm they like while the rest of the class maintains a simple groove. This empowers the students, giving them a sense of original creation.
Finally, because we want to have fun, we end our workshops with a free-form jam session which always leaves us with smiles!
I would like to give many thanks to Nydia Algazzali Gonzalez for her participation in the classes at Terra Linda High where we work together. In those classes we have incorporated movement and dance (which Nydia leads) into the music workshops and have put together a performance for parents. She is an inspiring teacher and I have been lucky to work with her.
I also want to thank all the teachers and and teacher’s aides that helped out immensely during our sessions. My work has been made much easier by everyone’s help and participation.
Lastly I’d like to thank Youth in Arts as an organization for giving me the opportunity to work with such great kids, teachers and schools and I look forward to future opportunities to continue this important work.
Thank you so much!