Student Forums
A journal of social practice & professional engagement for the Antioch community
 

Social Arrangements: Della Jerkan ’16 at Melodic Connections

My current co-op job seemed like a total dream: a paid position at a non-profit music therapy organization, serving adults and children with disabilities. Soon enough I realized that I was living out a dream of mine, a dream where I would actually be fulfilling what co-op has always intended for students. Cooperative education strives for learning by doing, achieving and experiencing and I now finally know what it means to learn through those avenues. I’ve been given these opportunities through an organization called Melodic Connections. At Melodic Connections, I have learned the significance of something I like to call “mutual opportunity”. Mutual opportunity, to me, means that there is the ability to leave impacts on one another – the organization and its work onto myself and hopefully an impact I might be able to leave on this organization and on the students.

As said before, Melodic Connections is a music therapy organization with a unique and incredible mission. From their website, the mission reads, “to provide therapeutic support for individuals with disabilities as they engage in adapted guitar or piano lessons. Lessons building toward performances will foster self confidence and empower students to succeed in other areas of their life!” They put great emphasis on using music not only for empowering themselves in the studio but also to use it as a way to empower themselves in their everyday life. The therapists at Melodic Connections help the students (clients) to customize their experience and help them learn how to play the instrument and/or sing a song, no matter their degree of difficulty. The ways in which these adapted music classes help them with other challenges in life all has to do with the way students (clients) can adapt and transfer the information they have learned into their own style, understanding, and comfort level. The methods clients use for learning how to play certain instruments as well as sing songs help them to find methods with generalizing information in the outside world. Melodic Connection’s environment and classes help students to realize their potentials and to reach for their goals wherever they may be.

So, chords are translated to colors. Therapists tune the guitars in open D chord so that when you press along all strings with a handheld slide, it plays a complete chord. The small pieces of paper on the vertical poster board correspond to the colors on the guitar that would be played in the song. The ticks on the colored paper indicate the amount of times an individual should strum the guitar. My job in many of the lessons is to help students stay on track with their chords/colors, help tune guitars, set up chargers for keyboards, assist students with supplies like picks and slide for their guitars, and other instrument related things that help to facilitate class in an orderly fashion. I have had no previous experience with adapted music learning classes before working at Melodic Connections and am grateful for getting this exposure, as I have seen the amazing results.

No doubt, this organization and the people behind it have made and continue to make an incredible impact on the community surrounding it. The transformations that I have seen in clients in such a short time here doesn’t even begin to explain the transformations that many clients will have or have had over the years at Melodic Connections. From what I have observed, I believe that this is very much due to three important points: the client-teacher relationships that have been formed, the learning and trust that has been facilitated in this environment, and most importantly the efforts and harmony demonstrated on behalf of both groups in this environment. My initial intention for this co-op was for helping to shape my future career, but now I see it as hopefully becoming a large part of it. I have learned and am thankful for the significant amount of information I have obtained at this organization already and look forward to the many more lessons and valuable experiences that are yet to come.

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