Veronica With Four Eyes

Why Students With Disabilities Should Join Band

It’s hard to believe that it’s been ten years since I first started playing clarinet.  Almost every aspect of my life connects back to the fact I play clarinet- the friends I have made, the people I have met, the places I have travelled to, and the interests I have developed over time.  While I am not a music major (though I do play in college band!), I can’t deny how much playing clarinet has helped me in life.  Here are ten reasons that students should join band, especially students with disabilities, in honor of National Music in our Schools Month, a program by the National Association For Music Education (NAfME).

Awesome band directors

Two weeks into my freshman year of high school, I developed a chronic illness.  As I learned to manage my condition, my band directors were very compassionate towards me and understanding of all of my different symptoms- which included (but are not limited to) chronic pain, leg spasms, low vision, migraines, and photosensitivity- read more about attending high school with an undiagnosed chronic illness here.  My first high school director deserves a medal for putting up with all of that- read my post dedicated to him about photosensitivity in the classroom here.  While I felt unwelcome in many classroom environments, my band directors always made sure that I knew I was a valued member of the band program.

Something to look forward to

Students who receive special education services are statistically less likely to participate in extracurricular activities.  By participating in an activity like band, students find an increase in socialization, leadership skills, and confidence. When I found myself frustrated over things related to my first high school, I would start thinking about how awesome band class would be and what I would be playing next- read more about this in my post about not graduating early here.

It’s not just reading music

There are many people who believe that playing an instrument is simply done by reading music arranged by someone else off of a page.  There is so much more to music than that.  My middle school band director taught students about improvisation and encouraged us to practice the skill whenever possible, something I appreciated as music became harder to read.  Other band directors I had taught students how to compose and arrange music, and encouraged students to create their own compositions. Speaking of reading music, read more on how to make music accessible for students with low vision here.

Built in group of friends

I always have a built in group of friends when it came to band, as it is such a great social outlet.  I could almost always find a familiar face in the classroom, someone to sit with at lunch, or someone to help me find the bus (or after I fell off the bus- more on that here).  All of my closest friends have been in band with me at some point, usually playing either clarinet or saxophone (with the exceptions of a fantastic flute player and pretty great percussionist).  I still keep in touch with almost all of my band friends, who frequently make appearances on the blog.

No one cares about disabilities

I never had to worry about bullying when I was in band, which was a problem in a lot of my other classes.  Students didn’t really seem to notice or care about my disability and were happy to include me in whatever everyone else was doing, whether that was having a picnic, talking in the stands, or other adventures.  My band directors were also wonderful about not highlighting the fact I had low vision, and I never had to worry about them announcing to the audience that I couldn’t see, or something like that.  One of my band directors even took inclusion one step further and encouraged me to join marching band- more on marching band and low vision here.

Band members watch out for each other

Us band students tend to be very protective of each other.  Whether it was preventing someone from flickering the lights and triggering my photosensitivity, or helping me self-advocate, I always knew I could rely on a fellow band member.  My directors often watched out for me as well, and helped me find my way to class, make new friends, and even helped me when my IEP was being violated in other classes.

Opportunities outside of the classroom

There are many ways to get involved with music outside of the classroom.  There are extracurricular ensembles like jazz band, as well as community wind ensembles and orchestras.  After students graduate, there are college band programs with many different ensembles, along with other opportunities to continue playing. I loved playing in extracurricular ensembles and have embraced playing in my college band program, and have plans to continue playing after college too.

It’s good for the brain

I couldn’t do a band related post without mentioning all of the benefits music has for the brain.  Music reduces anxiety, blood pressure, and pain for a large amount of people, while also improving sleep quality, mood, alertness, and memory (source).  It also gives the brain a workout, as it is one of the few activities that utilizes both sides of the brain.

A connection to others

I have been able to connect to people easily since I started playing clarinet.  Many of my classroom teachers played some sort of instrument, or had a family member who played one.  It’s a great conversation topic as well, as I have been able to talk about my experiences in band with so many people.  It helps them see that I’m not just someone with low vision, I’m also a clarinet player.

Naturally inclusive

“Music is a world within itself 
With a language we all understand 
With an equal opportunity 
For all to sing, dance, and clap their hands”

– Stevie Wonder, “Sir Duke”

Music is naturally inclusive for people of all abilities and disabilities.  Can’t see the music?  We’ll enlarge it.  Still can’t see it?  Play by ear.  Have trouble holding the instrument?  There are harnesses for that.  Have poor mouth control?  Try an adaptive mouthpiece, or play a percussion or stringed instrument.  There’s always a way to include someone.

I will always be grateful for the opportunities that being in school band has given me, and recommend that any student considering joining the band program try it out for a year.  It may just change your life!

Why students with disabilities should join band. Ten reasons how participating in school band can help students with disabilities



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