ELIZABETH, NJ - The sound of equality and inclusion will shake the rafters at the Eugene G. Wilkins Theatre for the Performing Arts at Kean University Jan. 10 when musicians and singers both with and without disabilities will perform side by side in a collaborative concert that also will include students from four local middle schools.

The 5th annual concert is a joint effort by Community Access Unlimited (CAU), its Academy for Continuing Education (ACE) and Kean’s Music Conservatory program. CAU is a Union County-based, statewide nonprofit that strives to integrate people with disabilities and at-risk youth into the general community through comprehensive supports.

Kean music majors have been working with CAU members and ACE students for several years, helping them learn and appreciate music and teaching them how to play instruments. Two years ago the Kean and ACE students formed bands called CAU Rocks and The Keaniacs and both will perform in the collaborative concert.

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"Music is the great unifier," said Lyn Schraer-Joiner, Kean's music education coordinator. "It connects all people equally and brings them together. Music bonds and that's what happened to us."

The music to be performed was carefully chosen for its message, according to Marguerite Modero, musical director at ACE.

“We selected songs that relate to our situation in life so we can advocate for greater community integration and how we have abilities that many people might not think are there,” Modero said. “We focus on our abilities, not our disabilities.”

Musical renditions will include “By Chance,” a song written by ACE students that talks about people with disabilities being seen for who they are and not for their disabilities, choral selections, rock tunes, and music from Disney productions.

Students from middle schools in Elizabeth, Rahway, Roselle Park and Union also will perform.

The collaborative concert is free and open to the public. It will begin at 7:30 p.m. Wilkins Theater is located on the campus of Kean University at 1000 Morris Ave., Union NJ. The performance will run for about one hour.

As a bonus, this year attendees will be able to purchase hand-crafted jewelry, cards, and paintings made by ACE students as well as those from the middle schools.

This arts project is made possible in part by a 2019 HEART (History, Education, Arts Reaching Thousands) Grant from the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders.

To learn more about CAU, visit www.caunj.org.

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