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Jun 27, 2019

Thanks for Making Judy's Wishes Come True

Judy Ann Johnson
Judy Ann Johnson
Dear Friend of GITC,
I hope this report finds you enjoying the first days of summer. Usually we send you a broad look at what has been happening with programs. But today, I want to share about something special that your gifts made possible, something that helped a veteran teacher make one of her final wishes in the world into a reality.
Judy Ann Johnson was a light in the lives of her famly, friends and her students. She taught in our home district, San Diego Unified, for 20 years. She was a dedicated first grade teacher at a school with her last name, Johnson Elementary. Johnson is one of those special small campuses that feels like home. The office staff is friendly, there is almost no place to turn around, and the walls are covered with murals. It was a perfect place for Judy who adored the arts. She was a skillful painter, singer and she played the guitar!

Judy joined GITC in the summer of 2018 and through her short time with us, she brought our work to her school. She applied to SD Unified's fledgling VAPA Foundation for a classroom grant to purchase ukuleles for the students to play and was awarded that grant for $500 at the beginning of 2018-2019.

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Through one of our wonderful sponsor partnering companies, Saga Musical Instruments, Judy ordered 24 soprano ukuleles for her classroom. Our Tuning Archangel, Rodney Howard got them ready and we personally delivered them to the school to make sure everything arrived timely. But Judy was not there. No one seemed to know what was going on. She had been out sick for several days.
Judy wrote to me from her hospital bed, explaining what was going on. She had received a very vexing diagnosis - Stage 4 pancreatic cancer and large pulmonary embolisms in her lungs. Most people would not be thinking about work when they get this kind of bad news. But Judy was worried that, because of her health crisis, her kiddos would not learn to play, despite being ready to strum, sitting in a big box in their classroom.
"I'm not sure who will be taking over my room, but I made a promise to those kids to learn the ukulele and if you can help me out, well wonderful," she explained. "Marissa Ramirez is the other first grade teacher who is my partner in crime.   I have my own little uke and guitar here that cheer me up. I am so grateful for everyone's kindness." 

We promised Judy that we would find a way to fund two weekly first grade teaching artist residencies in order that her promise to the children be fulfilled and her dream realized.
Thankfully, this came to pass because of you and helped us raise just enough funding to send GITC Teaching Artist. Jefferson Jay to bring joy and learning to Judy's and Melissa's kids. Jefferson is one of the most convivial people you'd ever want to meet and he was up for the assignment. 

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GITC is grateful to you! From January through April, teachers and students in both first grades learned how to strum, sing, and write their own songs for learning. Each child has music to help them tackle the tough moments in life, to bring them closer to each other, and to express how they feel.

Very sadly, we lost Judy this spring. She in the angel band now. But her love will live on in every student who learned to play because she made up her mind to give music to them- no matter what...and because you cared.
Those ukes will keep on being played at Johnson Elementary and we hope to do more next fall in both first AND second grades! The program will carry Judy's name.  And each time a new first grader or second grader comes into their classroom at the beginning of the year and sees those ukuleles on the wall next to Judy's picture, they will know that someone very kind had them in mind.
Thank you for bringing the magic. We hope you will stay with us and keep the goodness going.
With gratitude,
Jess

Links:

May 13, 2019

Looking Forward to an AMASE-ing Summer!

Join us in San Diego for AMASE!
Join us in San Diego for AMASE!
Dear Friend of Special Education and Music,
Thank you for your continuing support! In the past week, many people have been asking us to share with them about our AMASE conferences coming up this summer. These trainings are open to anyone wanting to attend and we are offering them at no charge thanks to everyone who is helping out. Thsi means any teacher, aide or specialist regardless of their ability to pay can learn to bring music into teaching and therapy.
So how we are going about training special education professionals to lead music each day? And how is this process different for children with special needs? 

For most of us, learning to make music is a complex process that involves putting a myriad of motor skills, small and large to work. Our arms, hands and fingers, our legs, feet and toes, our ears, eyes and mouths, our hearts, our lungs, our heads, necks and torsos, and all that gray matter that connects the musical and physical dots for us are involved.  We are all born with musical potential, no matter what our bodies and brains can or cannot do with ease.

But what happens to children if some part of their anatomical tool box doesn't exist or doesn't work very well? Can a person with limiting conditions develop alternate ways to approach making music? The answer, of course, is "Yes, they can, and they must be given that chance."
Think of superstars like the irreducible Django ReinhardtStevie WonderEvelyn Glennie or Rick Allen of Def Lepard to get a glimpse of what is possible. There are so many musicians who have not let impairments stand in their way. 
Not only can all students learn to enjoy making music, but those who face major challenges physically, cognitively or emotionally stand to gain a great deal by having this opportunity.  We can help them accomplish this by preparing teachers to break down the assumptions and barriers. Then THEY can teach and assist students with special needs to lead the way. 
AMASE Conferences last two days. During this time, special education professionals gather together to learn and to improvise exciting ways to create inclusive, effective music instruction. We share adaptive practices and techniques for making instruments more accessible for students. Trainers in innovative technologies participate as do local music therapists who teach specialized interventions such as the artful de-escalation of aggressive behavior and refocusing students away from stressful triggers and toward productive participation.

GITC is able to offer these trainings to 45 participants each time and to do this at no charge thanks to very important grants from the Nordson Foundation, the Qualcomm Foundation and the NAMM Foundation, and with charitable participation from generous music products sponsors and amase-ing individual donors like YOU! We are deeply thankful to each and all for your compassionate support.
At GITC, we know AMASE has to offer a broad array of musical opportunities so that we can include students regardless of what kind of mountain they might be climbing. Ukuleles are fantastic but so are drums! We are crazy about REMO's Comfort Sound Technology drums created for students with special needs and hypersensitive hearing and so is the Beamz Interactive Unit!

Paralysis might look like a barrier but it need not be. With eye gaze technology, eye movements are enough to trigger musical instruments that work with computers. Spastic muscles might make it hard for students with Cerebral Palsy to strum strings or strike drums, but adaptive grips. picks and mallets solve that.  The variety of approaches to making music accessible is pretty good now and will only grow with time and exploration. We want to make sure these approaches reach the kids who can benefit from them the most.

This is why, through AMASE, we are "gathering the tribe" - calling all sorts of innovators together to join us in training special educators and paraprofessional staffers, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, counselors and others to bring music making to students with special needs. Are you hearing the call? Please reach out to us. Let us know.  It takes quite a large village to make this endeavor possible! To discuss ways to get involved, please drop us a line! And to see when our next AMASE Conference is taking place, please visit our PROGRAMS PAGE.
We look forward to hearing from you and thank you for supporting the creation of AMASE.
With you in service for the children,
Jess

Links:

Apr 22, 2019

A Time of Hope and Renewal!

The Hope Symbol
The Hope Symbol

Dear Supporter,

Thank you for standing by us while we bring this special project together. At this special time of hope and renewal, we are receiving more song suggestions, ideas and new songs written by teachers for inclusion in this important songbook. 

Here on the anniversary of the Columbine shootings, and in the wake of school shootings around the country over the past 20 years, the need for songs that can help and heal is particularly poignant. Equipping all the teachers participating in our work- and beyond- with these songs and a handy song resource to be kept at the ready for when something upsetting happens could not be more important.

We now have songs for the book that are ready to share which specifically promote kindness and friendship, reduce students' anxiety over a test, help them settle a fight with a friend, express love, and songs that provide comfort and empower children to comfort others, and songs that express love for someone who has passed. We also have songs to calm students after a fire drill or lockdown drill.

We are still seaching for specifica songs to make it easier for teachers to sensitively and effectively address difficult experiences including changes in family structure (divorce or tragedy), housing insecurity, a parent's military deployment, severe illness and injury, and trauma including trauma resulting from violence. Some of these songs do not exist yet and will need to be written in order to complete the project. To that end, we recently have reached out to 500 teachers in our programs to ask their participation in achieving this goal. We promise to keep you informed about the progress!

In the meantime, we wish to share a very heartfelt historical performance by the Coen Brothers, students at Columbine High School who performed their original composition, "Columbine Friend of Mine" at the L.A. Music Awards many years ago. Please click the attached link to see them and hear their song.

May music be a timeless resource in the lives of all our children as they learn to navigate in a complex world without sacrificing their faith in themselves, in others, or their hopes for humanity. I

Wishing you a beautiful celebration during this Passover and Easter weekend!

Jess

Links:

 
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