Starr’s Mill inaugurates Music Therapy class


Students with special needs involved in the Community Based Vocational Instruction (CBVI) program at Starr’s Mill High School benefited this past semester from a new Music Therapy class, sponsored by the SMHS Choral Department.

Students involved in the CBVI class experience an education centered on improving everyday life skills in addition to educational coursework. In order to encourage career goals and a life as community service-minded citizens, CBVI students visit off campus locations to gain real world experience.
Unfortunately, the off campus class schedule has made attending a fine arts class on a regular basis impossible. With that in mind, Courtney Savage, CBVI teacher at Starr’s Mill, and Christy Todd, the school’s associate director of Choral Activities, brainstormed in December on ways to integrate the fine arts into the students’ instructional schedule, resulting in an innovative Music Therapy class that began meeting for 30 minutes once a week. 

The Music Therapy class builds on the CBVI program’s current curriculum by encouraging development of speech, movement, communication skills and teamwork. The class also encourages intrinsic motivation through support of creativity and the opportunity for students to identify an area in the fine arts in which they excel.

After discussing the possibility of a class with Dr. John Odom, Starr’s Mill High School’s director of Choral Activities, the decision was made to have the Music Therapy class meet at the same time as the school’s Advanced Placement Music Theory class. This allowed AP Music Theory students the opportunity to share their talents in the Music Therapy class. A highlight of the Music Therapy class included lessons in which the AP Music Theory students sang and played instruments including the saxophone, flute, guitar, mandolin and drums.

Beyond the choral and special education departments at Starr’s Mill, the Music Therapy class benefited this year from the support of Principal Audrey Toney and the SMHS Parent Teacher Student Organization, which provided funding to purchase class materials and musical instruments adapted for students with special needs.

On Friday, May 14, the Music Therapy class held a talent show for the students to share their musical knowledge. Over 50 guests were in attendance, including parents, teachers, faculty members and administrators. Highlights of the talent show included: students leading physical warm-ups to music; the singing of a musical scale using solfege (led by Alex Goodman); a performance of “Do-Re-Mi” from the Sound of Music (solo by Ben Tyrrell); a performance of Journey’s  “Don’t Stop Believin” (solo by Ike Kamalu, accompanied on air guitar by Matthew Hayes and air drums by Ben Tyrrell); and the world premiere of the “Starr’s Mill Song,” written by students in the Music Therapy class and accompanied by students in the AP Music Theory class (solos by Talithia Brown, Ike Kamalu, Ben Tyrrell and Will Oglesbee, directed by Matthew Hayes). Other Music Therapy class performers included Rachal Booker, Ethan Harris, Chelsey Johnson, Justin Lucks, Miranda Mascara, Krislyn Nielsen and Corrie William