Thanks for the link. This seemed very timely as my first job this week was to look for some kind of music based program for use with my disabled son.
However, I couldn't help feel some reservations about the article. The woman who was enthusing about how good it would be for her Down syndrome son obviously hadn't actually tried it with him. Like many enthusiastic reviews of products it all seemed very short on facts or concrete examples about the course. Even the Simply Music website gave almost no useful detail that I could find, just a lot of sales puff.
Perhaps I'm a little over-sensitive on the issue. But after 15 years working with disability (and my wife's many years of experience working for our Disablity Services Commission) we've learned to be cautious (distrustful even) about the use of disabilities to introduce a 'feel-good factor' into a product review. It was great to hear that it worked with the blind boy, but there are large numbers of well known blind musicians (Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder spring immediately to mind with piano) but also many singers and instrumentalists across the board, including numerous old bluesmen. There's even a sort of popular idea (myth?) that blind people often gravitate towards musicianship because they have greater aural sensitivity. So there's nothing new about blind or otherwise disabled people being able to learn music. I've also seen many varieties on the theme of 'music as therapy'.
But that doesn't mean it's not good either - it might be fantastic. So I asked at the local music shop. It turned out that two of the owner's extended family had tried the course, as had one or two customers. So I asked him about it. His report wasn't that encouraging. Here were some of his points:
- 1. It's a franchise arrangement. The teachers do not have to be trained music teachers at any particular standard (although many presumably are fine in that regard). The main requirement is that they pay $2000 for the training and starter materials, follow the course and pay a further $2 fee for each student lesson they charge for.
2. His daughter (who is a bright student in other areas) felt that it was restrictive in that they would only use the course material and she couldn't get the teacher to show her any of the tunes she wanted to choose for herself. Surprisingly, she also felt that it was slow and that the quick and easy results were exaggerated (although she may have felt that about any course).
3. They had to commit to buying a fair bit of material and teaching. This is probably true of other methods too, but they may have preferred something they could try out first more cheaply?
4. One person reported that his teacher did not appear to know how to play the piano herself, but had just done what was needed to obtain the licence to present the course material.
Now, that does sound fairly off-putting, but given the drop-out rate from just about any non-compulsory course of study I feel that I shouldn't write it off on the basis of a couple of rather disappointed customers.
So does anybody else have any positive or direct experience of the Simply Music courses or methods please? There is apparently a teacher only ten minutes drive from here so it may still be worth a shot. Or I could buy a DVD and give teaching him a try myself.
There several other methods of teaching without using traditional musical notation (such as use of colour codes, white boards, numbers etc) and I have already successfully taught my son to play a number of simple tunes. I just like the idea of getting an outside teacher involved - but only IF I can find the right one.
Any opinions please?