Earlier this month, students in LISD special education classes at the Milton C. Porter Education Center attended a program presented by All Music is Power (AMP), a 501(c)3 organization that provides fully interactive, musical concert series that reach kindergarten through post-secondary students receiving special education services across Michigan.
The AMP concerts are performed by professional local musicians, including former members of The Verve Pipe, Andy Reed and Donny Brown. Students are not only audience members but are also given the opportunity for a hands-on experience in their own student-centered learning environment. This interactive opportunity for self-expression and learning is research-based practice in action.
Ann Smart, LISD Educational Technology Consultant, helped bring this program to the LISD. “The exposure to music for these kids and the ability to move and express themselves is fantastic,” Smart said. “We look forward to bringing this program back in the future. The musicians were so comfortable with the students interacting and participating in the concert.”
Mark Lyons, Project Manager for AMP and Curriculum and Technology Specialist at Bay-Arenac ISD, was a special education teacher for 13 years. During that time, he looked for ways to expose his students to music. He met Donny Brown through a mutual friend who brought him in to play guitar for Mark’s students. That relationship led to the creation of AMP. Mark now assists AMP with strategies for students who have special needs and/or sensory disorders, and works directly with intermediate school districts and educational service agencies to schedule AMP concerts.
Donny Brown, professional musician and AMP band leader, believes programs like these are especially important for special education students who may not have the same musical opportunities as students in local public school districts. “If there are kids here who have ever thought of playing an instrument or trying something new, we want to be the ones who hand them the drumsticks or let them strum the guitar,” Brown said. “Music has been such an enriching, positive thing for us, we couldn’t do anything else but try and pass that on.” Brown went on to describe his first musical performance with Lyons’ class, where the kids were excited to be actively involved in the music. “As the performance went on, the participation progressed from us playing guitar to students playing, singing, and dancing along,” said Brown. “The skies opened up and we were able to see something that brought real value and joy to these kids.”
Another special twist on the event came from Larry Wilberding and his nonprofit organization, Just Breathe Music. Through his organization, Larry donated harmonicas for every student in attendance, allowing them to continue exploring and creating music outside of the classroom.