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Adapted intensive music instruction for intellectually disabled students

Annukka Knuuttila, principal teacher for inclusive music pedagogy in Kuopio Conservatory

There are three comprehensive schools in Kuopio with intensive music instruction. Kuopio conservatory works closely with these schools, e.g. teaching music theory and cooperative orchestras (brass bands). One of these schools, the Kalevala school, also has different classes for students with special needs. Five years ago, the school's music teacher, Taina Räsänen, raised the question of why students with intellectual disabilities should not be offered also brass band possibility? The parents' association (PoNus) started to advance the idea with her and the baritone horn orchestra (Trööttäjät) was founded at the school.

Kuopio Conservatory has for 20 years tried to advance the barrier-free musical path of students with intellectual disabilities, from babies to vocational studies in music. I raised the question of how the students with special needs at the Kalevala school could, if they wanted, also get into the scope of intensive music instruction.

Last spring we started looking for a light model of “adapted intensive music instruction” together with the school's special teachers, principal, music class teachers, the conservatory and PoNus. This trial now means that in the academic year 22-23 the parents of pupils with special needs were able to choose music as an optional subject for their children. This means that the children would have two (instead of one) music lessons a week. Kalevala school now has 24 students in adapted intensive instruction (2 groups).

We call this optional lesson Musabox. The instruction is carried out jointly by a special education teacher and a music pedagogue from the conservatory. The special needs assistants are also involved. Furthermore, Musabox offers a unique learning environment for the music students of Savonia University of Applied Sciences and their teachers. As a result everyone learns from each other and there are also regular visits by interested institutions.

The syllabus is based on the “Basics of music” of the Kuopio Conservatory, which is largely implemented using the versatile working methods of early childhood music education. The results so far have been excellent. Even this small increase in music instruction has not only advanced the students' musical skills but also their school readiness. Specifically, finding and maintaining common pulse has been an important achievement and it advances inclusion.

Some of Musabox students also attend either the conservatory's short individual playing lessons or PoNus baritone lessons.

This experiment is the only one of its kind in Finland so far but it is one step forward on the path of more equal and inclusive music education.

Kuopio Conservatory is a partner and Kalevala school is an associate partner in Erasmus+ project ALIISA.


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