December 2013 I discovered Agnieszka K and her younger sister Magdalena.
I suppose I was looking for homeschooled students and their creativity and their wild life in Wales which really appealed to me.
My little sister - the series - began in 2008 when Agi was 8 and Magda was 4. This year Agi is doing IGCSEs in Spanish; Art; English Language; English Literature and a vocational qualification in filmmaking. She has been to a variety of festivals.
What really comes out in My little sister 9 is Magdalena's love of investigations and of science.
And it was good to find a Hallowe'en related video from Agi K's work. She worked on that with several friends.
I think it was because I was reading a few women's magazines and journalism pieces from a ghost writer and storyshaper - one of the stories happened to be about My little sister and Magdalena and Agi's relationship.
I also may have come across it through Natty and Mia and Hayley Golienowska and their work - the two have just won a Youth Award.
And I probably didn't visit for another three years or so. Agnieszka Productions, was, however, placed into my StumbleUpon account.
Here is the very first My little sister:
Wouldn't it be great to go on a retreat at Oakwell Barnes in Wales?
Their Mum and Dad are Anita and Alex Kolaczynska. The Mum wrote a book on Breastfeeding and Down Syndrome which was published in 2016.
When Magdalena was born from 14 February 2013 - Magda was born in 2006; Agi in 2003.
Born Stroppy page by Anita describing Magdalena's party when she was 10.
Agi K's films including My Little Sister series - $5.95 for each film to rent and $11.95 to buy.
What do you know about ladybirds, Magdalena? My little sister 8 [2016 trailer]. I liked that's science and that doesn't tell you anything and the scene on the beach reminded me of the Du Pre sisters Hilary and Jacqueline.
The first seven My Little Sisters can be bought for $11.70 Australian from VIMEO.
A long time ago there was this Children on the hill family who were raised by Maria and Martin. There was Ruth; Adam; Christian and Paul. There had been a great deal of detective work. And they were also Welsh.
Vimeo on Demand MY LITTLE SISTER 1 to 7
Vimeo on Demand: My Little Sister 8 which is 45 minutes long.
My Little Sister 9 is 55 minutes long.
And I remember too following the Polish players in the Hopman Cup in 2014.
And calls from various family members.
Grandmere had shared a letter from 2011 from one of her friends.
She made some good ones with Abi Foster and Charlie XCX and many great UK independents of the early 2010s.
"Fairies are my friends".
And she is good at looking at plants and fruits.
A change of pace:
while I was researching and learning about Sujeet Desai's latest performances in Trinidad and Tobago with a school orchestra, I remembered the Riverbend website who work in Southwestern Illinois.
Bethan Pickard was based at the Royal Welsh College of Speech and Drama when she wrote Music and Down Syndrome. The author is a flautist.
There was a historical evaluation and wide-ranging information about everything musical from rhythm to musical give-and-take.
I definitely agree that improvisation is one key to learning and appreciating music theory and practice.
One of the first studies which based its observations on statistical enquiries was that of Rollin (1946)21, designed to examine the reactions to music of individuals with Down's syndrome. Seventy three residents of an institution whose ages ranged from eight to forty eight years, all with Down's syndrome, were seated in a hall and exposed to dance music, with no initial instruction being given. The facial expressions and body language of the subjects were observed and analysed in order to determine their perceived enjoyment of the musical experience. Rollin commented that “some obviously enjoyed the entertainment” although “none danced spontaneously” and “in not one case was the tempo of the music maintained or brought out.”22 Numerous aspects of this study lack ecological validity, rendering the results unreliable. Firstly, facial expression may not be a dependable measure of perceived enjoyment: the individual could be experiencing intense emotion but failing or choosing not to display it externally. In addition, conditioned behaviour due to living in an institution might cause the participants to refrain from responding freely and expressively to the music.
Moreover, demand characteristics, whereby the participant develops an interpretation of the experiment's purpose and “alter their behaviour in a way that seems to them to be appropriate”23, could limit the validity of the results. Similarly, volunteer effects could produce detrimental consequences for the accuracy of the results, if the participant performs in the way they perceive the examiner to want them to24. This may be of particular relevance in this study, when we consider that eagerness to please and compliance are both commonly acknowledged features of the personality of people with Down's syndrome. These imperfections in the method used deem the results of the study invalid for generalisation.In addition to providing a detailed and thorough analysis of preceding studies, Blacketer-Simmonds (1953) conducted some original research, with the intention of “tracing the development of the commonly accepted views concerning the emotional and behavioural characteristics” of individuals with Down's syndrome, and “subjecting these views to closer observations than heretofore”.25 The first investigation undertaken had the objective of obtaining information regarding the “temperamental peculiarities”26 of the individuals with Down's syndrome involved, as they had appeared to those who had observed them before admission to Stoke Park Colony, where the author performed his studies.The results claimed that only 11 out of 140 individuals with Down's syndrome displayed a fondness of music. This may appear to seriously conflict with the aforementioned aptitude and love of music, which touched “all without exception”.27 However, if we look at the methodology for collecting the data which formed the foundation for this study, we will find several unreliable and defective elements. The information collected was not in response to particular questions or categorised in certain subject areas. “Only positive information of a definite nature was recorded, all doubtful or ambiguous statements and inferences being ignored.”28 The author even makes particular reference to the lack of support for the musical character of individuals with Down's syndrome:“It is perhaps somewhat surprising in how few cases such frequently asserted...characteristics as imitation, love of music and affectionateness were mentioned, though it must be appreciated that the information given was primarily intended to facilitate the admission of the subject to an institution, and unpleasant rather than pleasant traits would therefore quite likely be emphasized.”29As a result of this predicament and given the incompleteness of the information obtained via the case-histories as shown in the previous study, Blacketer-Simmonds designed a further study where it was decided to make a detailed examination of individual responses of people with Down's syndrome to music under test conditions. Forty two individuals with Down's syndrome were tested, as were a matched control group of forty two individuals with intellectual disabilities of other aetiologies.Part A of the study (General Response to Music) was similar in its format to Rollin's work, and Blacketer-Simmonds too took the facial expressions of his participants as evidence of their perceived enjoyment of the musical experience: “14.3% in each group showed obvious enjoyment of the music in their facial expressions and sustained attention until the music ceased.” Similarly to Rollin's findings, “no spontaneous rhythmic movement or other bodily response was observed in any case”, but equally, no instruction was given.30 Part B (Rhythm) required participants to repeat a rhythmic pattern on a drum, as played by the examiner. The results included the following:
Table 1 - Sample of results from Blacketer-Simmonds (1953), Part B - Rhythm31 Down's Syndrome Group Control Group “Perfect Performance” 33.3% 19% “No sense of rhythm at all” 57.2 % 66.7%Stratford and Ching (1983) highlight that this test relies heavily on memory, and is the kind of test “given to candidates for examinations for the Royal Colleges of Music”.32 Once again the bar may have been set too high, and the content of the test may be inappropriate for measuring the elements intended.Part C (Timing) consisted of carrying out exercises, such as marching in line, while keeping time to the music. Instruction was given to that effect.
Table 2 - Sample of results from Blacketer-Simmonds (1953), Part C – Timing Down's syndrome group Control group “Good time keepers” 42.8% 33.3%Part D (Tune) involved encouraging the participants to sing or hum along to popular songs or nursery rhymes. The author comments that this task occurred “without any satisfactory result”. Plenty of noise was produced by both groups, but without any resemblance to the melody. 33The methodology of Part D may be particularly problematic, since no specific system was employed to measure resemblance of the children's vocalising to the presented melody. Perhaps during in-depth analysis, similarities in rhythm or relative pitches could be found. This could certainly be an area worthy of further research. Blacketer-Simmonds concludes that there were no significant differences in the responses to music and rhythm between the Down's syndrome group and the control group, analytically disproving the extensively cited character trait.Cantor and Girardeau (1959)34 took a different approach to one aspect of Blacketer-Simmonds' work, investigating rhythmic discrimination in Down's syndrome. Having matched the mental ages of a group of children with Down's syndrome and a group of normally developing children, the authors exposed the subjects to the ticking sound of a metronome, and asked them to describe the rates as “fast” or “slow”.The normally developing children achieved higher mean scores than those with Down's syndrome, based on the correct number of responses given. Cantor and Girardeau concluded that there was no evidence that supported the description of children with Down's syndrome as having a “marked” sense of rhythm.35 The conditions of this experiment meet a satisfactory criterion of objectivity and the analysis is statistically sound36, thus providing more steadfast evidence than preceding investigations.Following Blacketer-Simmonds' comprehensive discussion of the field, and Cantor and Girardeau's agreement in challenging the stereotype of a “musical” individual with Down's syndrome, some authors appeared to take note. Eden (1976) is strikingly more cautious with his words:“...there is a popular impression that all [people with Down's syndrome] are exuberant, happy, biddable and musical. It is probably safer to say that [people with Down's syndrome] are individuals like the rest of us, and are not obliged to be any of these things.”37Stratford and Ching (1983) chose to confine their study and experiments to the domains of 'time' and 'intensity'; “the perception of these two elements is interpreted by individuals and presented as rhythmic action”. They excluded two other musical components: harmony and melody; avoiding complications which might have been caused by other variables relating to these factors, such as tempo, pulse, tone, and pitch.38For the first time in all the studies discussed thus far, Stratford and Ching formulate three test groups: ten children with Down's syndrome, ten children with intellectual disabilities of other aetiologies, and ten normally developing children; thus addressing the aforementioned dilemma of identifying the test group with which it is most suitable to compare individuals with Down's syndrome in this context. The experiment recorded subjects' responses when asked listen to a rhythmic stimulus and then to tap it on a drum. The rhythms presented were as follows:
Figure 1 – Rhythmic notations taken from Stratford and Ching (1983) Half of the Down's syndrome group and half of the normally developing group displayed rhythmic patterns in their responses to the rhythm presented in Rhythm 2, while none of the group with intellectual disabilities of other aetiologies were able to maintain a similar rhythmic pattern. Four subjects in the Down's syndrome and normally developing groups maintained some rhythmic pattern in all three performances, while only one of the subjects with intellectual disabilities of other aetiologies reached this degree of competence.The mean scores for the Down's syndrome group and the normally developing group were very close (4.50:4.80), the group with intellectual disabilities of other aetiologies achieving a mean score of 2.20. A subsequent Scheffé test showed no significance between the normally developing and Down's syndrome groups, but a significant difference between the group with intellectual disabilities of other aetiologies and the two other groups (7.12, P<0 .05="" sup="">390>
Though Stratford and Ching are reluctant to make fundamental claims based on the evidence produced in this experiment alone as to whether children with Down's syndrome have a “marked” sense of rhythm, they contradict Cantor and Girardeau (1959)40 in deducing:
“The parsimonious interpretation of the evidence we present must be that there is no apparent difference between Down's syndrome and normally developing children of the same mental age, though a similarly matched group of [children with intellectual disabilities of other aetiologies] were significantly weaker in rhythmic ability.”41
Another fascinating detail which this meticulous and accurate measurement technique unearthed, was that “the responses of those who maintained a pattern closely congruent with the stimulus...were all shorter than the stimulus.”42 The authors attributed this discovery to the fact that children of this mental age, although being capable of detecting a rhythmic pattern, were incapable of keeping a similar time span. Although this feature was apparent in all groups, not solely the Down's syndrome group, it may be of relation to behaviours observed in case studies discussed in subsequent chapters. Equally, the fact that “all subjects responded before the stimulus instead of with it; none responded after the stimulus” will be considered and analysed in relation to the responses of other children with Down's syndrome in further case studies.43
In conclusion, Stratford and Ching suggest that at this mental age and level of cognitive development, there is no difference between the rhythmic discrimination of normally developing children and children with Down's syndrome. “Differences lie between [children with Down's syndrome] and [children with intellectual disabilities of other aetiologies] and this comparison could account for the attribution to Down's syndrome children of a higher than normal level of musical skills.”44 This emphasises the argument put forwards previously that the control group used will have enormous bearing on the outcome of a study, and will determine the validity and perspective of findings.
Flowers (1984)45 concentrates on a different aspect of musicality to those previously investigated by Blacketer-Simmonds (1953) and Stratford and Ching (1983), focusing on Musical Sound Perception in [Normally Developing] Children and Children with Down's Syndrome. She states that “little is known...about musical sound perception among children [with] Down's syndrome” and tested the hypothesis that “no significant differences would exist in preference scores of [normally developing] children and Down's syndrome children”.46 The extremes of three categories of musical elements were presented: a) range, b) dynamics and c) rhythm.
The principal conclusion of this detailed study was that children with Down's syndrome preferred music at the piano dynamic significantly more than did normally developing children. This is a fascinating insight which should be applied to make learning, therapy and pastimes more compatible and conducive to the needs of people with Down's syndrome. As Chesney (1980) notes, “if the child dislikes the music used, he may not behave as expected.”47
Further research could also determine whether this finding indicates a distinct dislike of forte dynamic and whether this has hindered the development of people with Down's syndrome in any way. Behaviours demonstrating this possible dislike for loud noise, or confirmed preference of piano dynamic, might have been misconstrued as behavioural problems or could have led to frustration and discomfort for the individual. Flowers (1984) has certainly produced results which are applicable to a wider subject area.
An interesting study to finish this discussion of previous research might be that of Edenfield and Hughes (1991)48, whose aim was to investigate the singing ability of secondary school students with Down's syndrome.
Edenfield and Hughes tested two groups of young people with Down's syndrome, matched for chronological age and IQ: Group One comprising of thirteen students from a school where a choral music education curriculum was established, Group Two consisting of nine students from a nearby school where no such curriculum existed.
|Group One||Group Two|
Although the results of Group One are consistently higher, when analysed using the statistical hypothesis tests Mann Whitney U and Chi Square, no significant differences were discovered. Edenfield and Hughes conclude that for this particular sample of secondary school children with Down's syndrome, the training received did not result in statistically significant differences in musical “achievement” as measured by the Singing Assessment, maintaining that “further research is needed to clarify specific traits and needs related to the development of singing ability in students with Down syndrome.”49
This study supports the notion that any musical aptitude found within the Down's syndrome community is not necessarily taught or learned, and is far more likely to be innate. Although previous research has found itself to be abundantly disproving this theory, the ancient clichés are still quoted to this day:
“Even people with little or no acquaintance of Down's syndrome will, if the conversation turns in this direction, respond with a remark concerning their supposed love of music.”50
As this overview of literature reveals, during the twentieth century, numerous studies have aspired to account for the label given to individuals with Down's syndrome of being “particularly responsive to music... able to play in tempo [and] rhythmically skilled”51. There appears to be a paradox between these frequently asserted claims and the outcomes of any empirical research; to date there has been no conclusive evidence which justifies the origin of this characterisation. Through original research in the form of various case studies I intend to investigate the musical experiences of children and adults with Down's syndrome, with the objective of discovering any innate musical potential and analysing the form of this expression. I shall focus on rhythmic elements in order to develop some of the theories already proposed and discussed in this chapter, but also the treatment of instruments which articulate rhythmic expression, and the cognitive process which is integral to learning and expressing musical ideas.
Chapter 2 – Rhythmic Perception
Following on from the focus in the aforementioned studies, commenting upon “an appreciation of rhythm which [is] rather striking”52, I shall discuss in this chapter the rhythmic characteristics consistently presented throughout my observations in various locations and settings. It should be noted that the individuals discussed within the given examples range from toddlers to old age pensioners, and could be living in Cardiff, Manchester, Birmingham or Warwick; supporting the notion that rhythmic characteristics are similar if not identical throughout the Down's syndrome population.
During an outreach music therapy session with a teenage boy with Down's syndrome, a sense of “imitativeness” is well represented. The participant, G, enjoys hearing his name in the welcoming 'Hello Song' and very early into the session he begins to beat on his drum kit the basic rhythm of the song. D, the music therapist, notices this and supports his beating, keeping this rhythm in her left hand while adapting her singing and the melodious playing of her right hand. G continues to enjoy the rhythm he is mirroring, and D eventually alters her part slightly, leaving G to play this rhythm independently.
Probably without realising, G had learned a fairly complex rhythm in a compound time signature, and by concentrating on the rhythmic sequence was holding the sticks more firmly and tapping the drum with more control and intent; improving his fine motor skills. This supports Ockleford's observation that “Pupils' motor abilities and performance skills may develop hand in hand – each potentially benefiting from the other.”53
The constancy of G's imitativeness continues, as D musically adds a slight ritardando as she reaches a cadence point; G too slows and hits a chord with both sticks on the resolution of the cadence, emphasising his awareness of both musical structure and practice.
Very similar behaviour is witnessed with J, a man in his early twenties with Down's syndrome, at an adult day centre. J is very receptive to D's playing, and their musical improvisation concurrently comes to its natural end, both melodically and rhythmically attuned. J was deep in concentration as they finished their piece, and was silent for a few seconds before he looked up and smiled at D. Similar to G's epic crash on the final note of the improvisation, this is another example of appreciating and imitating performance etiquette; as though J understands his role in a musical context, perhaps from concerts he has attended or watched on television.54
When C, H and F, three seven-year-old boys with Down's syndrome, are invited to play the drum in front of the assembled music therapy group, accompanied by the music therapist, B, on the piano, all three eagerly accept. H begins by playing rhythmically but his beat bears no apparent resemblance to that of the piano accompaniment which was established before he began. However, B expertly adapts her piano part so that it reflects and complements H's beating of the drum. Once this initial adaption has been made, H retains a steady, unwavering pulse and his focus turns to B's hands at the piano. He studies them with deliberate concentration, perhaps watching for the slightest change of nuance or rhythm, which he expertly mirrors.55 Identically to G and J, H anticipates the cadence point and musically incorporates it into his improvisation.
Having observed that G, J and H's interpretations of cadence points were all very similar, strengthening the argument for an innate “love of music...”56 and a “rather striking”57 sense of rhythm amongst individuals with Down's syndrome; C's and F's improvisations demonstrate the individual differences and unique aspects of musical interpretation, which are logically equally apparent within this group of people as in the general population. It is imperative to keep sight of individuality within generalisation, and although these findings may advocate the age old stereotype, unique contributions and characteristics must be noted and appreciated.
“Although the responses of children of similar pathologies may resemble each other the musical self-portrait is highly individualized. No two children react exactly alike and responses can never be predicted.”58
F's drum beating is equally revealing but very different in several ways to that of H. F beats quickly and furiously at the drum, looking surprised by his efforts at one point, as though his arms don't belong to him. F displayed signs of hyperactivity and frustration prior to this performance, suggesting that this opportunity may have provided the required expressive outlet where he could share feelings in a supportive environment59. Oswald describes this unburdening release of emotions in the context of the security offered within the structure of the session: “The musical [therapeutic] experience allows us simultaneously to have very strong emotions and to safely contain these emotions in a non-disruptive way.”60 Bunt comments that according to psychoanalytical theory “A musical composition such as an improvisation is an acceptable form in which we can expose some of our wilder and more out-of-control feelings.”61
C begins to play with a hard and constant beat. Once again, his pulse bears no resemblance to what is unfolding in the piano part, but B proficiently switches to C's beat, accommodating and supporting him. C produced some very controlled accelerandi and ritardandi, and was very involved in his music: he accidentally hit himself on the chin and even hit his glasses with the sticks several times. Similar to when this happened to G in a previous session, this didn't deter him, confirming the total involvement and appreciation people with Down's syndrome display when involved in a musical activity.
When C's beating reached a truly furious state, yet all the while very rhythmic, B introduced some dissonances in the piano part to mirror or perhaps release the tension in the wild, passionate rhythms. C competently sensed the approaching cadence even within the disguise of relatively extreme dissonances and on sounding the final note threw down his sticks and ran back to his mother's arms, full of smiles and pride at his accomplishment. C's brother K, who doesn't have Down's syndrome, takes a turn after his brother and intriguingly isn't as rhythmic in his playing. This would appear to eliminate or at least dispute the potential of C's musicality being hereditary, although factors such as K's age and levels of musical exposure might contest this conclusion.
Rhythmic Patterns: Question and Answer Sequences
A music workshop for young people with intellectual disabilities in Manchester provided a prime opportunity for observing rhythmic tendencies within a group clapping game. The leader, P, claps a simple rhythm which the group claps back to her in reply. P occasionally amends the rhythm slightly, challenging the group to keep up with the evolving pattern. The group consisted of parents, siblings, musicians, group leaders and eleven young people with intellectual disabilities, eight of which were girls with Down's syndrome.
The general impression of the group reply to P's rhythmic 'question' is neither tidy nor together. The musicians and family members involved keep the rhythmic structure in place while the participants with intellectual disabilities, particularly those with Down's syndrome it would appear, seem to lag significantly behind.
Observing individual participants in turn, the reproduction of the rhythmic sequence is relatively accurate; it is the placing of this response in relation to the question which causes the subsequent delay. In fact, the majority of the eight participants with Down's syndrome appear to be fairly accurately constructing the rhythm, but with each of them beginning the response at a slightly different rhythmically 'incorrect' juncture, rendering the overall effect to be muddled and rather chaotic.62 The rhythmic conversation between a single participant and P could be notated as such:
The superimposition of the similar responses of other participants upon this conversation demonstrates the hectic spiral and confusion resulting from misplaced rhythmic responses:
It is interesting to note that a very similar feature is commented upon by Stratford and Ching (1983), whereby “the responses of those who maintained a pattern closely congruent with the stimulus...were all shorter than the stimulus.”64 Therefore, although the rhythmic pattern produced by participants may have been similar to that of the stimulus, its reproduction was deemed inaccurate when measured in relation with a constant beat. Stratford and Ching (1983) deduced that “although children of these mental ages whilst being capable of detecting a rhythmic pattern, were incapable of keeping a similar time span.”65 It is also worth mentioning that in the study of Stratford and Ching (1983), all the participants “responded before the stimulus, instead of with it; none responded after the stimulus”66.
In the 'copying' segment of G's outreach music therapy session he would mirror D's sequences on the drums, but was constantly early, eager to jump in with his response and apparently unwilling or unable to wait for the following distinct measure of a bar67, echoing the findings of Stratford and Ching (1983). In a similar 'copying' exercise with D, J would clap D's rhythm back to her before she had even finished her first rendition; he was keen to clap in time with D, perhaps feeling a connection and sense of acceptance in so doing.68Nordoff and Robbins report a similar excitement in a young boy with Down's syndrome during music therapy:
“He enjoys the musical give-and-take and anticipates the next working session. His musical intelligence is realised gradually and the intimate rapport consolidates the work. A musical companionship arises which makes further therapeutic coactivity possible.”69
This rhythmic characteristic is replicated once again in the group music therapy session, where C, H and F adhere to a similar inclination. H appears to have the most developed understanding of the task at hand and always beats the tambourine the required three times, yet always begins either a beat early or several beats late, despite his intense concentration and effort, and the patient encouragement of his mother.
C's brother K provides another intriguing insight when he joins in this exercise with C:
K succeeds in accurately producing the intended rhythmic sequence while C adheres to the aforementioned rhythmic predisposition found in people with Down's syndrome. C's superior musicality and sense of rhythm plays no part in the precise execution of this task. It is possible, if not probable, that this inconsistency in desired outcome between various tasks and the identification of this specific element which challenges people with Down's syndrome, could account for the contradicting paradoxes often reported between scientific findings and descriptive literature. This inconsistency could justify the deficiency of conclusive evidence regarding rhythmic ability in people with Down's syndrome; inclusion and consideration of this discovery in future research could resolve the discrepancy, thus generating more accurate and significant results.
This tendency for accurate reproduction of a rhythm presented at inaccurate points of a musical sequence is an extremely prominent feature in all the observation work undertaken, perhaps the single most prevalent trait witnessed. Further research would be required to ascertain an explanation for this ostensible delay in reaction; a possible line of investigation would be whether there is a link between the delay many children with Down's syndrome experience both in initially developing speech70, and once sufficient speech is acquired, in eventually formulating a response when presented with a verbal cue71. Musical conversation is potentially reflecting verbal communication, and this discovery could be used in turn as a resource for supporting speech acquisition and communicative competence.
Chapter 3 – Instrumental Teaching
With the intention of further contextualising, this chapter focuses on the innovative and exciting teaching methods which were experienced while completing o bservations for this study.72 This is a subject area which was not addressed in research completed during the twentieth century since children with Down's syndrome would rarely if ever have been considered capable of receiving instrumental tuition. Fortunately, this mentality is gradually changing and a handful of dedicated and compassionate professionals are leading the way for inclusion in this area. One would sincerely hope that this is an area which will develop considerably over the coming years.
Four teaching methods will be referred to, encountered in three private piano lessons and one peripatetic drum lesson.73 The variety of methods used reflects the diversity that exists amongst individuals with Down's syndrome, “to an extent similar to that seen in the non-disabled population”74. As Selowitz concisely comments, “There are more differences between children with Down's syndrome than there are similarities.”75 It would be naïve to expect all children to respond consistently well to one method of instrumental teaching; this supposition applies equally to children with Down's syndrome.
The purpose of this study is most certainly not to establish a 'Down's Syndrome Teaching Method', but rather to acknowledge a variety of methods which have been successful, and distinguish which aspects of these approaches could be further implemented in instrumental teaching, general musical experiences and perhaps even in a more widespread application to compliment other facets of everyday life.
The first method is that of Rosie Cross, who is an accomplished and experienced teacher of young people with Down's syndrome in Birmingham.76 Cross discusses several alternative notation resources appropriate for musicians with Down's syndrome, such as the 'Letter in Note' system and Alpha Notation:77
However, in specific relation to the teaching of T, a young man with Down's syndrome, Cross doesn't utilise either of these notated methods, deciding early on that “T was never going to be able to read notation and so another way had to be found of enabling him to access music and internalise it.”79 Learning by rote was established as a way for T to commit to memory some well-known melodies in order that he may progress at a similar pace to his siblings. This small consideration is in fact very significant when dealing with children with Down's syndrome; Cross notes that it was important for T to “perceive himself to be taking part in the same activities as his siblings.”80
Other methods employed included pointing to or even playing over T's fingers, in order for him to discover the correct physical movements and sensations required. This was an aspect of the lesson that T's musical mother was able to replicate during practice sessions at home, discovering that “putting her fingers over his and 'playing' his fingers helped him towards eventual independence.”81
Cross explains her choice of teaching method in this instance, encompassing all the smaller techniques discussed, referring to improvisation as a preference when working with young people with an intellectual disability:
“I believe that for those with a learning difficulty, the key to successful playing on any instrument lies in improvisation. It encourages free creative expression; it does not depend on written notation; it can be adapted to suit a pupil of any ability and allows the pupil to take charge of his own learning as you develop this type of playing together.”82
The exploration of improvisation provided the foundation for T's development over a decade of piano lessons. Images in tutor books might provide ideas for an improvisation, so that T can see a parallel in his own development and in the more conventional teaching styles received by his siblings. Equally, inspiration might be drawn from a popular tune or a current topic, such as the festive season or the weather. Improvisation can also be used as a “powerful and valid means of communicating emotion and feeling with the outside world for people with learning disabilities”83, allowing a piano lesson to also become a welcome outlet for expression and emotional development.
[Most things are fixed now - I'd just remove the pictures and the musical notation. There is a way of putting it into HTML 5 which was only beginning in 2009].
Pickard's thesis really gives us a sense and a context for Desai's work which he has been doing in the musical context since he was 5 and picked up his elder brother's piano lessons.
A challenge: can you name Sujeet's six instruments - without looking?
The Colour Muse programme is so awesome. It gives you a sense of the notes.
Might go and find Sujeet Desai's Memory and some of the things he did in Romania.
I think I first knew of him in 2001-02 when there was Yes, I can and this was an original piece of his.
He and his brother worked on a website in Graphic Design and IT some twenty years ago. It can be buggy sometimes though it is very easy to access at warp speed especially looking for interviews and articles.
And there are at least three accounts Sujeet Desai is using on VIMEO.
Through October and November 2017 he was very busy playing at assisted living places for the elderly - some of these gigs he has had for the better part of 20 years.
Dessai concert links from 1999 to the present
It was Diwali / Deepvaali the week before last - here are some 2013 wishes.
And there are 2016 and 2017 Diwali wishes if you look carefully.
Right now I am focusing on 2012's World Down Syndrome Day - ten years after I "knew" SD; six years after he was engaged to Carrie Bergeron who is a wonderful speaker:
Sujeet Desai in Romania on Vimeo:
https://vimeo.com/39940167 [Orange Blossom]
https://vimeo.com/39936643 [Clarinet and Memory - Andrew Lloyd Webber/ Tim Rice]
https://vimeo.com/39904721 [Clarinet Chrysalis]
[thank you iPad Notes for keeping me sane in this context!]
Newspaper clippings about Sujeet Dessai - some of the early ones are by his fellow students; many are in mainstream media.
A blessing or a nightmare? Desai senior is a dentist and so is her life partner. This was about the early 2000s
Special Tomato is a rehab and positioning company by the Bergerons. Carrie thinks she is the "special tomato" on her family bush.
Hope you are all sitting down comfortably or moving around to the music.
This concludes #31for21 for 2017.
Enjoy your treeks and treats! Many Enid Blyton fans may remember In the fifth at Malory Towers where the "teeth treek" was finally played to great delight of the students. Treek is trick in a French accent from the early 1950s.