917 "C" Street
San Rafael, California 94901
Enjoy this blog written by YIA Mentor Artist William Rossel about his recent residency in Erin Muldoon’s class at Venetia Valley Elementary School:
I have been very lucky to work with the students in Erin Muldoon’s class for 3 years now. We have been using music and percussion to reach some important goals, including communication skills and fine motor control, and I am proud to say all of the students have made great gains. Some of the goals that we’ve been working towards have been being able to reach and touch the musical icons on a schedule, or to hold onto mallets for drum-play. Other goals include being able to verbalize wants, or when that’s not possible to communicate through other means. For example, I ask each student to help me come up with a rhythm by choosing long or short notes and they have to annunciate which notes they’d like. We’ve made huge progress on both of these fronts (fine motor and verbal communication) with all of the students. It’s been really exciting to see.
Our typical musical exercises include beat counting/playing, call-and-response (i.e. taking turns), making/playing basic long-short patterns, jamming, and playing to recorded music. This last exercise is one of the most fun. Each week, I ask one student to share with us a musical artist that they like (Erin and the staff have it all down, playlists and everything) and we play their music and accompany it with our drums. It is super fun and it gives the students a chance to try to verbalize their wants and to participate in making music with their favorite artists.
In this school we had a great culminating event where we invited parents and other students to come watch what we do. It was a huge success and I’m so grateful that one of the moms loved it so much and saw the value of what we are doing that she funded another 5 sessions herself. So cool!
I am also so grateful to Erin and all of her staff which have always been nothing less than amazing! Looking forward to more!
YIA Mentor Artist William Rossel
My name is William Rossel and I am a mentor artist for Youth in Arts.
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!
If you walk down the halls of Terra Linda High school on a Tuesday morning, you may just hear the sounds of a Tabla, Doumbek, shakers and tamborines playing joyful beats accompanied by the gleeful cheers of students in Rachel Hughes Special Day Class. YIA Mentor Artists William Rossel and Nydia Gonzalez have been working with students for 10 weeks, practicing a variety of basic rhythms and swaying movements which they will present for attending family and friends in a few weeks.
Every student in this class has enjoyed the activities, finding the one that brings them the most joy:
Gihea rocks out to the beat with her upbeat movements, waving her scarves and showing off her moves.
Brian loves to dance with the “friend of the day” (usually a soft stuffy that Nydia brings in to assist with engagement and focus), and his twin brother Neil loves to play percussion instruments on the peripheral of the classroom.
Maria eagerly awaits the moment in which she can sway her hips to the rhythms in a fluid movement while waving the scarves and smiling.
Demelza always insists she is too shy to do her “solo”, but ends up breaking out her special choreography that usually includes some serious hip shaking and the “genie” move, named by a classmate from last year.
Savannah loves to play along to the beat and when she does her solo dance, she smiles and giggles with contagious joy.
Graham, has limited fine motor skills, but always waves his arms in rhythm and shares the biggest smile when it is his turn to shine.
Alessandra absolutely LOVES to help us keep count of the rhythms and her signature dance move is a spin.
Needless to say, we have a blast playing music and dancing with this talented and enthusiastic group of students. Thank you to the teacher Rachel Hughes and all of the para-educators and aides who are so loving, supportive and willing to get down with our groves at Terra Linda High School!!