Buena Park, Calif. -- Yamaha has announced that it is the National Presenting Sponsor of United Sound, an Arizona-based educational organization that has developed a comprehensive program to integrate special education students into band programs with the help of a peer mentoring system. Yamaha Cares, an employee-based, charitable giving initiative of Yamaha Corporation of America, helped make this relationship possible.
Though United Sound is less than a year old, they will operate in 15 schools located across four states in August 2015 and continue to expand nationwide. The goal of the program is to support individual music educators in creating their own school-based United Sound instrumental ensembles so that all children have access to meaningful and authentic music education and musical experiences. Dedicated to promoting social involvement through shared ensemble performance experiences, United Sound joins students with and without disabilities to learn and perform in the band or orchestra together.
“This is the first all-inclusive initiative to involve kids with special needs into music classes, especially band, which comes with curriculum and a mentoring program that can allow it to expand nationally and make it sustainable,” Roger Eaton, chief marketing director, Yamaha Corporation of America, said. “Children with special needs are often unintentionally excluded from music programs and we at Yamaha contend that every student who wants to experience the gift of playing music should be able to do so. United Sound promotes an ambitious plan that benefits both the Peer Mentors and the New Musicians involved in the process.”
Founded by former music teacher Julie Duty, the program is run by a certified music teacher and a certified special education teacher at participating schools with support from United Sound in the form of specialized training, curriculum, support, and organizational resources. With assistance from student volunteers (Peer Mentors), New Musicians learn to play the instrument of their choice at a personally modified level. Learning first in lesson format and ultimately transitioning to rehearsals with recorded music, the New Musicians learn a piece of music that they will then perform live in concert, once per semester, with their Peer Mentors and a full instrumental support ensemble. All of the instructional models allow for the individual musicians to perform on an instrument of their choice and progress at a comfortable pace where they can feel successful.
“Many organizations reach out to children with special needs, but what makes us different is that we provide a comprehensive and proven program for teachers that includes resources, curriculum, and support,” Duty said. “Music students who become Peer Mentors are a key component of our success. They don’t realize it at first, but they change so much and learn to think outside themselves. We’re not only extending the joys of making music to the special education population, we’re also making the Peer Mentors better students by having them teach, which turns them into better human beings.”