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Disabled kids host own music festival

Friday, May 9, 2014

Next week at Sapa, over 400 children with varying disabilities from 16 special schools across the country are putting on a music festival as part of an arts and disabilities conference.


Arranged by the Consortium of Disabilities Organisation (CODO) in association with UTT, the concert has been made possible with funding from First Citizens Asset Management.


President of CODO Sharma Ramlakhan told the T&T Guardian that the festival emerged out of an educational music and arts programme she developed. The five-module programme includes a music festival where students of all ages and both intellectual and physical disabilities will perform short pieces from an exciting programme.


The Goodwill centre performs David Rudder’s Calypso Music using African drums, tenor pans and percussion and Lady Hochoy Special School Gasparillo will perform As Bread That Was Broken with xylophone, castanets, drums and pan, amongst other highlights.


UTT’s music students teach the children in their schools, overseen by Caitlyn Kamminga, who explained the set-up.


“Through the course that I teach, Residency in Community Arts, fourth-year music students at the Academy for the Performing Arts are asked to identify a need within the community and then create a residency through a partnership in the community,” Kamminga says.


“Many of my students have opted to partner with CODO. Thanks to the First Citizens grant, CODO is able to offer my students a stipend to create residencies at special schools throughout Trinidad. They create lesson plans designed to coach the special schools for the annual festival.”


This will be the fifth festival. The first took place in 2010 with a pilot programme focused on parang.


Ramlakhan said, “Parents enjoyed seeing their children in a productive, creative light. It gives people with disabilities a chance to recreate, express themselves and achieve their human rights. This community, unlike in places like the UK, is voiceless and it’s going to take a long time to build confidence. It’s not an overnight thing.


“The festival lets them know they have a stage to perform on and a safe secure environment where no one is going to laugh at them.”


Music therapist Jean Raabe, brought in from Michigan, USA, spent some time with teachers as well as disabled children and adults and introduced useful ideas about using music to overcome physical and mental obstacles and as therapeutic resources and coping mechanisms.


Raabe feels that steelpan, in particular, is ideally suited as an instrument for practising therapy.


Kamminga said, “One of the many beautiful outcomes of the partnership with CODO is that several of my graduating music students have been able to identify career paths in music therapy and will now begin in earnest to prepare to apply for master’s degree programmes abroad, as this is not currently offered in Trinidad.”


The Music Festival for Persons with Disabilities starts at 1 pm on May 13 at Sapa, San Fernando, and precedes the Arts and Disabilities conference which takes place on May 16 at Napa, Port-of-Spain.


The conference is for all educators from pre-school up to tertiary education and will help them build an understanding of the kinds of frameworks needed to become inclusive for people of all abilities.


n More details are available on the CODO Web site


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