An ongoing collaboration between two local music educators to bring the pleasures and benefits of music to adults with disabilities recently was recognized nationally when Lyn Schraer-Joiner of Kean University and Marguerite Modero of the Community Access Unlimited's Academy of Continuing Education (ACE) presented at the 2018 Research Conference of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) in Atlanta.
Schraer-Joiner is the coordinator for Music Education and an associate professor at Kean. Modero is the music director at ACE, a school created to allow adults with disabilities to continue their education after turning 21. ACE is part of Community Access Unlimited, which supports people with disabilities and at-risk youth.
Modero and Schraer-Joiner have been collaborating for three years on a continually evolving program that teams ACE students with music education students at Kean, with the Kean students teaching the CAU members how to play musical instruments and create musical composition.
"Music is the great unifier," Schraer-Joiner said. "It connects all people equally and brings them together. Music bonds and that's what happened to us."
Added Modero, "Music is the great equalizer in that it gives our students the chance to achieve what everyone else can achieve and be judged for their abilities and not their disabilities."
What began as an effort to introduce music to people with disabilities has blossomed into a growing formal program. Several years ago the CAU members and Kean students began staging a collaborative concert, held at the Wilkins Theater at Kean University and drawing more than 500 attendees. Last year the Kean and ACE students formed bands called CAU Rocks and The Keaniacs.
"We saw how music impacted the ACE members' lives, how working with others in a music setting could make them feel better about themselves," Schraer-Joiner said. "Their outlook and how they carried themselves changed for the better."
Last fall Schraer-Joiner and Modero took the next step, creating a three-day music composition class in which CAU members collectively wrote a song titled, "Peaceful Mind," which was performed at this year's collaborative concert.
All this caught the attention of NAfME and Schraer-Joiner and Modero were asked to present at the association's national conference, speaking to an audience of music educators and researchers.
"Our presentation was well-received by the music educators in attendance who represent all levels and areas of research in the field," Schraer-Joiner said. "We were there to deliver a message that these populations should not be ignored, that there are many voices and they should be given the opportunity."
As a result of the NAfME presentation, Schraer-Joiner and Modero have been invited to present at the Teacher Symposium at Columbia University in New York at the end of May.
"This is a validation of the time and effort we put into promoting the arts for people with disabilities," said Modero. "Every time I do these presentations I'm brought back to the feeling of pride I have for the members of CAU. They overcome so many obstacles and always surpass our goals."
Community Access Unlimited (CAU) is a statewide Union County-based nonprofit providing support programs and services to adults with disabilities as well as at-risk youth to enable them to live independently in the community, providing supports in areas including housing, vocational skills and life-skills training, education, advocacy and recreation.
About Community Access Unlimited
Community Access Unlimited (CAU), celebrating its 39th year in 2018, supports people with special needs in achieving real lives in the community. CAU provides support and gives voice to adults and youth who traditionally have little support and no voice in society. CAU helps people with housing, life skills, employment, money management, socialization and civic activities. CAU also supports opportunities for advocacy through training in assertiveness, decision-making and civil right. CAU currently serves more than 6,000 individuals and families, with the number served growing each year. For more information about CAU and its services, contact us by phone at 908.354.3040, online at www.caunj.org or by mail at 80 West Grand Street, Elizabeth, NJ 07202.