Kodi Lee, who captured America’s heart and won “America’s Got Talent” with his piano prowess and passionate singing, spent a week this summer at Michigan State University, participating in the College of Music’s fourth annual summer piano festival specifically designed to benefit advanced music students who are on the autism spectrum.
Lee amazed judges and viewers with his spectacular performances, which he shared with an intimate group of fellow students and faculty on campus in July.
When learning of MSU’s program, Tina, Lee’s mother, knew it would be an unforgettable experience.
“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, Kodi. Want to go to college?’” she said.
“Heck, yeah,” Kodi Lee said. “I’m going to college at Michigan State University. I’m a big college student.”
Celebrating the Spectrum: A Festival of Music and Life, is a weeklong program that provides instruction, performance opportunities, lectures and on-campus living that ends with a public recital.
Joining Lee this summer were 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 Jaxon 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.
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 who are focused on meeting the needs of communities through research, outreach, artistry and education.
A major goal of the Celebrating the Spectrum program 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.
Celebrating the Spectrum teachers and coordinators have traveled to speak about the program’s positive outcomes locally, nationally and internationally at conferences and events about autism and piano pedagogy.
“I’m going to tell people how wonderful the program is,” Tina Lee said. “I love it, and he’s having a great time here.”
To learn more about the program, click here.