Syracuse University Magazine

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Studio Sessions Are a Hit for All

Beautiful music is made on a daily basis at SubCat Studios, a 10,000-square-foot professional sound recording complex in downtown Syracuse where dozens of bands lay down tracks and seven locally based labels produce CDs. But SubCat hits a particularly sweet note when it plays host to The Inclusive Recording Studio, an intensive six-week summer course in which music education graduate students teach people with disabilities—most of them area high school students—to operate the studio’s recording equipment. “Through intense instruction and mentoring relationships, we get the kids past any fears they may have of technology and show them what’s possible,” says James Abbott, audio technology instructor at the Setnor School of Music in the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

Music education professor John Coggiola, who co-teaches the course with Abbott, believes that learning to use advanced technology empowers and enables students with disabilities, while offering special advantages to music teachers entering the profession. “It’s important for teachers to see how much these kids can accomplish in a ‘no limitations’ environment,” Coggiola says.

Jointly sponsored by the Setnor School, the School of Education, the Burton Blatt Institute, and the Taishoff Family Foundation, The Inclusive Recording Studio is part of the Music Technology Access Project, an ambitious initiative with at least three related goals: to teach people with disabilities the skills necessary for professional digital recording, editing, and mixing with Avid Pro Tools and Apple Logic Pro software; to develop and codify effective methods for the teaching of these skills for educators across the country and around the world; and to refine and adapt the software programs toward universal accessibility. “The addition of options to available industrial software may open up new career paths in music recording, television broadcasting, and related areas for people with various types of disabilities,” Abbott says.

Mia Quatrone ’12, G’13 (pictured above), a master’s degree candidate from LaFayette, New York, was among the students enrolled in the course this summer. “During the first weeks, we are taught everything there is to know about running the studio, with constant reminders from our professors that we will soon be teaching what we are learning,” says Quatrone, who plans to teach music at the elementary school level. “Then we begin working with our students, who come to the program presenting a wide range of teaching challenges, including autism, Down syndrome, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Seeing them working in the studio, setting up equipment, and operating the mixing board really opened my eyes to teaching students with disabilities.” Andrew Dolloff, who teaches instrumental music at Onondaga High School in Nedrow, New York, agrees. “Being part of this first-of-a-kind program really helped me look at music education from an entirely different and exciting perspective,” says Dolloff, who has a master’s degree from Stony Brook University and took the course through University College.  “The growth I saw in these students in only a few weeks was tremendous—and very inspiring to me as a music teacher.”

Abbott points out that most SU students taking the course are not planning for careers specifically focused on teaching students with disabilities, and that makes the experience all the more valuable for them. “It gives them the professional edge of having worked in an inclusive environment,” he says. “They’re going to go out and teach in all kinds of schools, and one day a special education teacher is going to knock on the door and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got this student with a disability who is a really talented singer. Would you let this kid take your voice class? Would you let this kid sing in your chorus?’ And when that happens, they will be ready to include that student.”   —David Marc