The Laboratory Schools at Illinois State University take pride in collaborating with other departments on campus. One such collaboration is with Professor of Music Education Kim McCord, who has been teaming with Thomas Metcalf School music teacher Donna Zawatski.

The idea of a Rock Band class started last year after McCord and Zawatski, along with Metcalf Principal Amy Fritson Coffman, traveled to Finland to explore its education system. While in Finland they observed music classes using an innovative music education system called Figurenotes. The system uses colored symbols for each musical note, which corresponds with shape stickers on the instruments. The system, similar to the popular Rock Band video game, helps children and adults achieve almost instant success in making music. McCord said the simplified form of music education is ideal for adults and children with disabilities, or individuals who struggle with regular music notation.

This past fall, under McCord’s direction, a “Rock Band” night class for adults with disabilities was offered and has just concluded. Coffman has agreed to offer a summer session for Metcalf students, teens and adults with disabilities, and seniors. Thomas Metcalf School plans to offer teacher training for music teachers, therapists and special educators who will teach the groups alongside McCord. There is already interest in the Rock Band concept across the U.S.

Enhancing the Rock Band project was made possible through the Donors Choose Project. This project allowed the educators to finish equipping their rock bands for Metcalf students and local adults with disabilities in the community, fully funding the instruments thanks to a large matching grant from Google.

Metcalf received a huge shipment of instruments in January in time for the current session for adults that began in February. Metcalf is anticipating at least three rock bands for adults with disabilities. Illinois State University music and special education students will co-teach together as part of the special music education course.

Read more about the project in this Pantagraph article published on November 22, 2015.