Ashley volunteers to answer questions from students at the Everybody Counts concert at St. Andrew School.

Ashley volunteers to answer questions from students at the Everybody Counts concert at St. Andrew School.

At Melodic Connections, our goal is to create an environment that prepares our students for their communities and communities for our students.  We use music — and all the ways music connects us in community — to accomplish this.

When we began our podcast project, we identified the skills our students would need for success.  Since they would be conducting the podcast interviews, we first addressed the concept of asking and answering questions.  Asking questions is how we find out about our world and the people in it. It is how we gain information and create, nurture and develop curiosities. In many social settings, asking questions is the first step toward participating in the larger world around us.

Ashley has been with our podcast from its beginnings and is a great example of how these skills are being developed and applied in community settings. Once a week, Ashley works with the group, studying how to ask and answer questions.  The results have been quite noticeable, especially to board certified music therapist Shelly Zeiser, who is leading the program.

“I have seen Ashley talking much more.  Things that would get a one-word answer before, now receive a much longer, concrete and detailed answer,” Shelly says.  “She is able to more clearly articulate her wants and needs and ask for information about her day and her world.”

The podcast team tours Hubbard Radio and meets onair personality Jay Cruz.

The podcast team tours Hubbard Radio and meets on-air personality Jay Cruz.

Music Therapist Shelly Zeiser offered this example.  “I really noticed this progress when Ashley was getting out of the car a few weeks ago. I asked if she needed help. Instead of a yes or no answer she said, ‘No. It’s easier if I get out first and then go back for my backpack’.  This helped me understand not only that Ashley didn’t need help, but that she had a clear process for getting into/out of the car, and I didn’t need to ask if she needed help anymore.  She gave me this information about her world and her process, without being prompted.”

At Melodic Connections, we have all noticed that Ashley has a unique personality, and a great sense of humor. By increasing her verbal communication, she can show that to people more easily. Recently we had a concert at a middle school where our musicians were invited to talk about themselves. Ashley volunteered to speak into the microphone, in front of a crowd of students, and describe her experience learning music.

When asked how she feels about her progress she says she feels “good.”  She enjoys “interviewing people, learning things, and learning about the podcast.”