“I’ve got the eye of the tiger,” the 14 members of the Woodlands Music Ensemble sang at the top of their lungs. They excitedly yelled over to their instructor, “We’ve got the eye of the tiger, Ms. Kory!” The ensemble had just started rehearsing its spring program, which to its delight included Katy Perry’s “Roar.” Ms. Kory, or Kory Antonacci, a board-certified music therapist and the Music Coordinator at Woodlands, later told me, “The room could have exploded with the amount of energy and excitement they had.”[i]
Several weeks ago I interviewed Kory to learn how she helps the Woodlands Foundation fulfill its mission of “enriching the lives of children and young adults with disability and chronic illness.”[ii] By creating programs that promote feelings of inclusion, facilitate appropriate peer interactions, and encourage emotional expression, she uses music to enhance the quality of life of everyone served by Woodlands.
One of Kory’s programs, her Music Ensemble, runs for ten weeks each fall and spring. She started the ensemble to provide participants with year-round opportunities to become excited about music and engage in music-making. In the ensemble, Kory tries to capitalize on the strengths of ensemble members, who currently range in age from 9 to 24, and help them express themselves. She says, “To give them that outlet through music is incredible—especially for nonverbal kids.”[iii] Through rehearsals and culminating performances, Kory helps ensemble members gain musicianship, and she also encourages the development of life skills like the ability to work with a team.
Many ensemble members play percussion instruments. Kory finds these instruments ideal because all ensemble members, even those without prior musical experience, can easily use them to produce sounds. To give ensemble members the chance to experiment with melodic lines, Kory also has them sing and play Orff instruments. With these instruments, the ensemble plays many styles of music to reflect members’ varied tastes.
Ensemble members don’t just prepare for performances by rehearsing music, though. They eagerly craft plans for the staging, costumes, and the concert script as well, and they can’t wait to show everyone their work. Kory observes, “They want to get the audience (their peers) involved, and it’s so incredible for them to be role models. It’s their show and vision; they really do take ownership.”[iv]
This spring’s show, “Dancin’ through the Decades,” features music from the 1950s to the present day. Kory chose this theme because she wants to expose ensemble members to many different musical styles, let them see how music evolved over time, and enable them to connect to their parents through music. You can attend the May 10 concert if you want to celebrate ensemble members’ hard work and see them perform hits like “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “Roar.”
During the summer, everyone at Woodlands takes a break from the Music Ensemble and instead attends the annual Notes From the Heart Music Camp. This year’s adult camp runs from July 6-11, and the camp for children and teens will take place from July 13-18. At the camps, participants will have the chance to work with instructors from schools like Harvard and the Hartt School, as well as some of our very own PSO musicians! To see what goes on at camp, check out the video below from Woodlands:
Through the Music Ensemble and Notes From the Heart Music Camp, Kory and Woodlands give participants many opportunities to grow as musicians and individuals. They believe music can play a powerful role in the lives of everyone at Woodlands because as Kory says, “Music knows no boundaries. A lot of participants have had lives defined by boundaries and stipulations. You’re never told ‘you can’t do this’ at Woodlands. Music will forever bind us together as human beings. It’s one language we can all relate to and express ourselves through. It doesn’t matter if a child is singing a solo or shaking an egg shaker; all are able to express themselves and that’s irreplaceable.”[v]
[i] Antonacci, Kory. Personal interview. 28 Feb. 2014.
[ii] “Who We Are.” Woodlands Foundation. Woodlands Foundation, 2010. Web. 17 Mar. 2014.
[iii] Antonacci, Kory. Personal interview. 28 Feb. 2014.