Faculty voice:

Derek Polischuk: Celebrating the spectrum

Oct. 19, 2016

Derek Polischuk is an associate professor of piano in the College of Music. He has worked extensively with pianists on the autism spectrum for 10 years and has published articles on the subject. In July, he was an instructor in a first-of-its kind summer piano festival sponsored by the MSU College of Music. “Celebrating the Spectrum – a Festival of Music and Life” provided advanced music students on the autism spectrum the chance to preview life as a collegiate musician.

I was anticipating something extraordinary because having worked with students with autism spectrum disorder I know that they are capable of extraordinary things when they’re put into exciting circumstances.

I was worried about logistical things. I was worried about how we were going to recruit students. I was worried if we were going to have enough meal tickets for lunch. But I wasn’t worried about these students’ ability. I have seen their ability before in my work and so I was excited about that part.

There’s this really famous music festival in the summers in Aspen, Colorado. It’s sort of the center of the classical music universe in many ways in the summer. I want this to become the Aspen of Asperger’s. I want this to be something that all students with autism spectrum disorders know about and want to come to. I want them to come here because it’s inspiring. I want them to come here because it’s fun. I want to expand this to many other instruments to make this something that people with autism strive for and want to be at.

The goal that I have for them, and for their parents, is that doors of possibility are opened.

Watch the video above to learn more about the program.

Reused with permission from the MSU College of Music.