MSUToday
Published: July 10, 2019

College of Music hosts program for music students on the autism spectrum

Contact(s): Michael Sundermann College of Music office: (517) 353-2043 sunderm1@msu.edu, Kristen Parker University Communications office: (517) 353-8942 cell: (517) 980-0709 klparker@msu.edu

Michigan State University’s College of Music will host its fourth annual summer piano festival specifically designed to benefit advanced music students who are on the autism spectrum.

Celebrating the Spectrum: A Festival of Music and Life” will take place from July 15 to 20. 

The weeklong experience provides instruction, performance opportunities, lectures and on-campus living and ends with a recital at 4 p.m. July 20 at Cook Recital Hall, which is inside the Music Building at 333 W. Circle Drive. (Due to construction, visitors are asked to enter the east side of the building, adjacent to the Music Practice building.)

The free event is open to the public.

Students participating in this year’s program include Kodi Lee, who recently shot to fame after an appearance on America’s Got Talent television show. Lee is considered a musical prodigious savant, and joining him are five other talented young musicians including Jack O’Hare, a multi-instrumentalist who enjoys playing Bach and jazz pianist Bill Evans' music; and classically trained identical twins Dexter and Jaxson Schroeder, plus two returning participants from last year, David Ginther and Masha Staples. 

Derek Polischuk, associate professor of piano and director of piano pedagogy, teaches piano to students with autism through MSU’s Community Music School

“This festival has established itself as an effective learning environment for cultivating the talents of advanced pianists on the Autism Spectrum,” Polischuk said. “We have a number of new students this year, so we are excited to track their progress as they are immersed in this exciting week of learning.” 

Other activities include informative lectures by MSU professors in musicology, music theory and neuropsychology, guided Pilates for rest and relaxation and to raise body awareness, classes in chamber music and jazz improvisation and meals and evening activities on the MSU campus. 

The program is in partnership with the C-RAIND Program, an MSU-based Center for Research in Autism, Intellectual and other Neurodevelopmental Disabilities that serves students with autism. C-RAIND is made up of a coalition of scholars and researchers from MSU that are focused on meeting the needs of communities through research, outreach, artistry and education. 

A major goal of “Celebrating the Spectrum” is to improve perceptions about the potential of students on the autism spectrum attending college. In time, the founders of the program also hope the program makes an impactful contribution to research and teaching methods. 

The College of Music also partners with various departments and resources across campus to provide the essential support, services and special accommodations necessary for students. 

Organizers of “Celebrating the Spectrum” have traveled to speak about the program’s positive outcomes locally, nationally and internationally at conferences and events about autism and piano pedagogy. 

To learn more about the program, visit here.