The Dick & Jane Project Inclusive Songwriting Experience - A Pilot Program Final Report

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1 The Dick & Jane Project Inclusive Songwriting Experience - A Pilot Program Final Report

2 There was a feeling of collaboration in that classroom that seemed to transcend the differences between us...all of us... the teachers, the students, and the music producers. We were just a bunch of humans producing music.

3 About the Program The Dick & Jane Project partners middle school students with professional music producers to create radio-ready songs. Students write the lyrics for the song and guide its artistic direction. The producers collaborate with the students in order to synthesize their ideas into a professionally produced song. The Dick & Jane Project values the power of collaboration. The Project brings together people of all ages, musical ability, and life experience to write songs - songs no one person would have ever created by themselves. It's this philosophy that led The Project toward the idea of including students on the autism spectrum within our songwriting experiences. Planning for these inclusive songwriting experiences began in 2013, with Dick & Jane staff meeting with parents, caregivers, and teachers to discuss how these songwriting experiences might look. Through support from Columbus Foundation and Autism speaks, four pilot inclusive songwriting experiences were funded. Each experiences was intentionally different from one another. Two songs were written in typical middle schools. Two songs were written in schools specifically for students on the spectrum. One song was written by two producers. We wanted to explore as many variables as possible and better understand the unique value for all students, family members, and teachers who participate in the Inclusive Songwriting Experiences. 1

4 "Memories Fade" The 1st Inclusive Songwriting Experiences was facilitated at St. Timothy parochial School, K-8. Three typically developing students (Aubrey, Amy, and Annie) and one student on the spectrum (Henry) collaborated with Dick & Jane Producer Glenn Davis to write the song. Once complete, Henry produced 5 different artwork suggestions. Student Quotes (On what their grandparents would think of this song) Oh I think they d love it. I think they d be so proud and happy that we could do something - that all of us could do something like this. If they could understand or know that it s about them I think it d make them feel really special and, I don t want to say proud, but happy that we ve grown to love them. From Producer Glenn Davis Working with the kids at St. Tims was a treat. Meeting with the group every day for an hour really allowed for us to edit and refine our lyrics to something we all felt proud of. Early versions of the lyrics were sent to Henry's art tutor to work on the art during his scheduled out of class art time. His final artwork was pretty great but I was unsure how to keep him engaged during class. 2

5 Makes Us Happy" The 2nd Inclusive Songwriting Experiences was facilitated at Jones Middle School in Upper Arlington. Three typically developing students (Molly, Frances, and Susan) and one student on the spectrum (Trevor) collaborated with Dick & Jane Producer Nick D'Andrea to write the song. From Producer Nick D: Trevor he had a great memory of taking a trip to a waterfall near his house with his aide Angela and jumping in the water. He also had a few different activities that always made him happy, like singing and dancing, which ultimately became the hook for the chorus. They started writing from there, coloring in their memories with more elaborate descriptions. Trevor worked with his aide to describe his memories in more detail. After I played them the first demo of the song, which we decided would be in the vein of Walk The Moon, with a pulsing kick drum, a sing along chorus and 80 s synths, Trevor memorized the song, and practiced it in his piano lessons that night. The next day he played the song for us on the piano in the classroom, and we made some voice memo notes with it that we included in the demos. I was really impressed by how Trevor stuck to the task at hand, and by how engaged he became with the process. When it was writing time, he really dug in and filled a page with lyric ideas for things that made him happy. He also did a great job of interacting with the other students, and collaborating with them once it was time to revise the song. I was really impressed by how Trevor stuck to the task at hand, and by how engaged he became with the process. 3

6 Avoiding Reminders & Pool The 3rd and 4th Inclusive Songwriting Experiences were facilitated at Helping Hands Center For Special Needs. Six typically developing students and twelve student on the spectrum collaborated with Dick & Jane producers Ben Shinabery, Rashad Thomas, and Corey Montgomery to write the songs. Additionally, nine student aides were present during the collaboration and provided insight and inspiration when needed. Avoiding Reminders is a song about a behavioral system implemented at Helping Hands Center. One of the students suggested it as a song title, and the Dick & Jane team ran with it. The teachers found it to be a very valuable experience..."this is something that we've been working on for a long time...reminders. Pretty much just following the rules of every day life. When they put it to a song it really clicked with them and helped them understand that these reminders are things they have to avoid and It made it a fun thing for them. The other song was born out of a conversation between students and Dick & Jane producers. Said one of the classroom teachers: "[During the songwriting experience] our students talked about the slide at the pool...the swirly, twirly, windy, etc. slide. You guys took all those words and used them. I don't think they realized how creative they could be, and it was really cool to watch a lot of them come out of their shell and realize their opinion counts. Student Quotes We wanted to tell people how we feel when we go to the pool." "Yea, the techno beats. I mean comon! How can you not love it" "It's Fun. It's the funnest music ever" 4

7 Every student was a part of it. Every student felt empowered by the process...and not just the end result. Producer Quotes "[My favorite part about the experience was] Every student was a part of it. Every student felt empowered by the process...and not just the end result. That was my favorite part, seeing every student be a part of the process and having you guys value what they have to say...asking what instruments they want to hear and actually having those instruments in the song. Or the words that they said, like, exactly the words they said. Not taking it and trying to manipulate it into something different. And you all listened to them, for as long as they wanted to list words or instruments or feelings that they were wanting." "[My favorite part about the experience was] Seeing them get creative. I think they got more creative than they thought they were going to get. Every single suggestion they gave for you guys you took it, made note of it, and you never changed anything. Like one of our students talked about the slide at the pool...the swirly, twirly, windy, etc. slide. You guys took all those words and used them. I don't think they realized how creative they could be, and it was really cool to watch a lot of them come out of their shell and realize their opinion counts. They got so confident." 5

8 Data During our Helping Hands workshop, working with 18 students on the autism spectrum, we polled the nine collaborative educators, asking them to respond to statements using a five point scale from strongly agree (5) to strongly disagree (1). The Dick & Jane Project songwriting process was an empowering experience for me. 88% strongly agreed with this statement. The Dick & Jane Project fostered a positive group work environment. 88% strongly agreed with this statement. I will share the song(s) we created with others outside the school. 88% strongly agreed with this statement. The Dick & Jane Project helped students understand how to use their creativity. 75% strongly agreed with this statement. The Dick & Jane Project songwriting experience was an inclusive experience. 75% strongly agreed with this statement. 6

9 Working with these kids affirmed in me that there is a level of creativity that is put into every human being...and these kids had a pure amount. It's hard for me to explain it. Most kids overthink things, but these kinds were connected... connected to something a little higher and little quicker. It was really eye opening and I learned a lot. I definitely have a different understanding of kids with autism.

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