The Inclusion of Individuals with Exceptionalities in Education

Background of Inclusion

Historically, the inclusion of students with exceptionalities in schools actually begins with the inclusion of non-white students in integrated public schools, as was mandated by the famous case, Brown v. Board of Education (1954). Acknowledged as one of the greatest Supreme Court decisions in American history, the Court’s unanimous decision led to the banning of segregation in public schools. This decision was made due to segregation violating the Equal Protection Clause and Fourteenth Amendment, and therefore the application of segregation was deemed discriminatory and unconstitutional. Furthermore, the separate institutions for white and African-American children were inherently unequal; black children in segregated schools had lower self-esteem than their white peers, which led psychologists to the conclusion that separation in itself leads to dangerous inferiority complexes that may have an adverse effect on the success of black children in academics (McBride). Ultimately, the decision did not immediately succeed in desegregating schools, it still set the foundation for more cases that would follow in its footsteps to support the rights of those who may not have originally been seen as equal under the eyes of the law.

Eleven years later, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (known as ESEA) addressed the improper treatment of Americans living in poverty, therefore committing to helping lower- and working-class families gain access to quality education. Additionally, the act mandates that funds be used for professional development, instructional materials, educational resources, and to promote the involvement of parents. This act is renewed every five years, adding revisions and amendments (known as titles) during each cycle (Social Welfare). Included in the ESEA series of amendments is Public Law 91-230 (1970), which includes Title VI. Title VI advocates for the education of the handicapped, providing definitions for learning disabilities. Furthermore, the amendment was implemented to encourage adults to complete a high school education through the Adult Secondary Education component (History of the Adult Education Act, 2).

Another amendment to ESEA is Public Law 93-380. This law set procedures and criteria for education, providing funding for programs to aide handicapped, migratory, and delinquent children. Such programs put in place as a result of the law include the National Reading Improvement Program, which funds the use of additional resources to effectively teach students with reading deficiencies and learning disabilities (Perkins).

Public Law 94-142, known as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, was established to ensure that children with disabilities have free appropriate public education available, with services designed to meet each child’s individual needs. Furthermore, the act ensured the protection of students’ and families’ rights, assists the states and local school districts in providing appropriate education for disabled children, and assesses the effectiveness of the institution’s efforts to provide an adequate education for students living with disabilities (Archived). This act helps provide the resources evident in the academic system in modern times.

Current Status of Inclusion in the Public School Setting

In today’s educational settings, students with disabilities and impairments are covered under requirements mandated by law. Two of the most common concepts discussed in special education are the plans that students with exceptionalities are able to receive accommodations under: The Individualized Education Plan and the 504 Plan.

The Individualized Education Plan assesses student needs and growth over the course of a designated time period. The information one may find in a student’s IEP includes their current performance or performance at the time of beginning the program, the annual goals that the child can reasonably accomplish within a year, the services that must be provided for the child (e.g. professional development for school faculty in order to assist the student), the student’s integration with non-disabled students, their participation in standardized testing (for example, a secondary school student in Ohio with a severe learning disability may not be required to pass the Ohio Graduation Test in order to graduate), the specific time and duration of when services are provided, transition service needs beginning when the child reaches the age of fourteen, and progress measurement (Guide to the Individualized Education Program). The IEP is commonly used when a student’s disability greatly interferes with their ability to perform in the classroom. For example, if a student is unable to comprehend their math homework due to Dyscalcula, this may greatly affect their ability to pass the course without assistance. However, if a student has a disability such as Asperger’s Syndrome (on the Autism spectrum) that may not have an adverse effect on their performance in the classroom but still leads to social or organizational deficits that make the school setting in general difficult for them, they will not be covered under the IEP. Instead, the student may be covered under the 504 Plan.

The 504 Plan is designed to help students with physical or mental impairments in order to ensure that students are treated fairly. These disorders may affect the student’s ability to walk, breathe, eat, sleep, communicate, see, hear, speak, read, concentrate, or work (Bachrach). Services provided by the 504 Plan to help these students include access to preferential seating, extended time on assignments, verbal and visual aids, excused tardiness or absence, and pre-approved nurse visits. These services provided by the IEP and 504 both strive to make living with disabilities less stressful for both students and their parents, assuring that every student can succeed with the support of their community.

My Experience with Inclusion in Schools

From September 2011 through to May 2016, I was a student at the Dayton Regional STEM School in Kettering, Ohio. Although funded like a typical public school, admission into the institution required the completion of an entrance application, admissions essay, parental explanation of the family’s interest in the school, and submission of Ohio Achievement Assessment scores to ensure the student’s ability to thrive in the academic program. Therefore, the vast majority of the students in my school came from the top quarters of their graduating middle school class, and were proven to have an ability to thrive in the mainstream classroom. However, there were roughly seven students (out of a 2016 graduating class of sixty) who did live with learning disabilities and/or disorders affecting their ability to attend classes. Of these students, the majority of them lived with Dyslexia, Dyscalcula, and Attention Deficit Disorder. The remaining students were covered under a 504 Plan, suffering from Chronic Migraine and similar neurological disorders. These were students who may not have needed academic accommodations, but needed exceptions to be made in other aspects of their education. Such examples include the option to complete frequently missed courses online, the allowance to miss a greater amount of school days than the average student (exceeding 20 absences), exemptions from certain class projects, and extended due dates in the event of a student’s inability to meet the original deadline due to hospitalizations and other extenuating circumstances. The students covered under the Individualized Education Plan had access to all of these resources, as well as having extended assessment time, assisted reading of test questions, and guidance in planning their assignments and responsibilities. Students under both plans were given access to a resource room which they had access to during their homeroom and study hall periods. However, all of the students were enrolled in mainstream courses.

One critique that could be made of the Dayton Regional STEM School’s policies regarding special education affairs is that it is insensitive to student privacy. Students would often be removed from their classroom for testing in non-discrete ways and teachers were (although not intentionally) vocal about who was receiving a “modified” exam, thus giving the students little to no confidentiality for their own academic records and progress. Therefore, although inclusion in the public school setting has come a long way, there is still a long way to go.

Inclusion Classroom Design

When designing the classroom structure, it is important to consider the educator’s personal behaviors as well as the behaviors of those in the classroom. One must keep a positive mindset about the abilities of all students; a student having a disability may be a hindrance to their goals, but it does not render them impossible. Therefore, it is important to respect the student’s goals and capabilities, encouraging them while also advocating for their comfort in the classroom. This means that educators must have a zero-tolerance policy for the harassment of students with disabilities in and out of the classroom, must respect the student’s confidentiality (therefore not discussing a student’s disability with others without their consent), and educating the entire classroom on diversity. Furthermore, it is important to respect the student’s personal identity by addressing them directly. The application of this concept is to call on the student themselves; a teacher should not ask their aide or companion to speak for them or exaggerate speech. This can be considered rude and condescending, even if intended to be helpful. Additionally, when working with hearing impaired students, it is important to always have the mouth faced towards them (and in a well-lit room) so that the student may read their lips (Brown University). Also, it is highly recommended not to require verbal presentations for those with speech or hearing impairments; it is often humiliating to the child. Most importantly, as an educator, it is important to respect the student as an individual. An individual is not defined by their impairment or illness; they are their own person with their own values and cognitions. Therefore, when designing a classroom, it is important to remember to always uphold the most respectful behavior.

Reflection

Through what I have learned about diversity and inclusion in school settings, I have come to the conclusion that as educators, it is of the utmost importance to be careful in how academic and administrative decisions affect the students’ ability to succeed in school. Students with specific learning, cognitive, and intellectual disabilities must be treated with the same amount of dignity and respect as their non-disabled peers, and therefore in order to ensure that students received the best education and transition services possible in order to become a contributing member of society when they graduate and/or reach the age of 21, educators and administrators must be sure to engage in professional and personal development to ensure that their knowledge expands. Furthermore, I have learned that I believe in assessing students based off of progress, in lieu of solely based upon accuracy. While accuracy is highly important, I believe that a student improving from consistently receiving scores of 40% should be celebrated for raising their scores to 70%, rather than being punished with low marks on report cards for not scoring high “enough.” Rather, I want my students to understand that it is persistence that will lead them to success someday, and that progress is always a great place to start.

Works Cited

ARCHIVED – Thirty-five Years of Progress in Educating Children With Disabilities Through IDEA– Pg 10. (2016, April 27). Retrieved April 02, 2017, from https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/osers/idea35/history/index_pg10.html

Bachrach, S. J. (Ed.). (2016, September). 504 Education Plans. Retrieved April 02, 2017, from http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/504-plans.html

Brown University. (n.d.). Retrieved April 02, 2017, from https://www.brown.edu/campus-life/support/accessibility-services/resources-teaching-students-disabilities/interacting-students-disabilities

Guide to the Individualized Education Program. (2007, March 23). Retrieved April 02, 2017, from https://www2.ed.gov/parents/needs/speced/iepguide/index.html?exp=0#contents

McBride, A. (2006, December). Brown v. Board of Education (1954). Retrieved April 2, 2017, from http://www.pbs.org/wnet/supremecourt/rights/landmark_brown.html

Perkins, C. (1974, August 21). H.R.69 – 93rd Congress (1973-1974): Elementary and Secondary Education Amendments. Retrieved April 02, 2017, from https://www.congress.gov/bill/93rd-congress/house-bill/69?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22pl%2B93-380%22%5D%7D&r=1

Social Welfare History Project (2016). Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. Social Welfare History Project. Retrieved April 2, 2017, from http://socialwelfare.library.vcu.edu/programs/education/elementary-and-secondary-education-act-of-1965/

History of the Adult Education Act: A Preview. (1991). Retrieved April 2, 2017, from https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ovae/pi/AdultEd/anniv40/silver-a.pdf

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Personal Development as a Student Music Therapist

Music Therapy as a Profession

To me, music therapy is a profession dedicated to enhancing the mental, emotional, and physical health of participants through the use of musical interventions. Such interventions may include (but are not limited to) lyric discussion, active music listening (giving the client the option to choose a desired form of music to listen to), neurologic music therapy applications (addressing rehabilitation and maintenance of functional behaviors), guided imagery, and music-assisted relaxation. Interventions for clients are carefully chosen to suit their needs, which is why another important aspect of music therapy is the development of therapeutic rapport between a therapist and client. Through the building of trust and secure attachment, the therapist is given the ability to develop an understanding of their client’s goals, strengths, and weaknesses. As an aspiring student music therapist, my philosophy is that music as therapy is the use of creative methods to make medical and psychotherapeutic experiences more personal and enjoyable for the client, as well as actively affecting the wiring of the nervous system.

Critical Skills for Music Therapists

Musically, every music therapist should develop effective transposition, theoretical, sight reading, and aural skills in order to serve their client effectively. While working in the field, there will be many experiences when a client may want to use a song that the therapist has not previously heard or learned the chords for. However, to maintain professionalism, it is important to communicate to the client that they have a choice in the musical selections used, and that they do not need to worry about the therapist’s ability to perform. Rather, music therapists are by definition professional musicians, and therefore must develop advanced musicianship techniques. If a song that a client wants to hear/play is in a key difficult for the therapist or client to sing/perform, then the therapist must take it upon themselves to transpose on sight, memorizing the key signatures and chord progressions. A music therapist must also use musical elements to communicate transitions, emotions, and key phrases in the music through the use of vocal dynamics (i.e. crescendo to communicate anticipation of the next verse, diminuendo to communicate a change in a story’s theme, etc.), tempo (i.e. accelerando to communicate emotions such as excitement and happiness, ritardando to transition to a song’s cadence, etc.), and instrumental patterns (e.g. the choice to strum or fingerpick on the guitar).

Non-musically, a music therapist must develop self-awareness. Not only must one be aware of their personal strengths and weaknesses, but they must maintain awareness of how their behaviors are reflected in their work. This means an awareness of the vocal dynamics they often speak at, and reflecting upon whether or not it may be too quiet or loud for their population. For example, a geriatric music therapist with a typically quiet voice may want to work towards speaking louder, in hopes of being heard by clients who may be dealing with hearing trouble. Similarly, a therapist with a consistently stoic facial expression may want to participate in improvisation classes or work towards expressing emotions more evidently, especially if they are working with young children who are still developing an understanding of the six basic human emotions.

Critical Traits for Music Therapists

Music therapists must be resilient. As a psychological, medical, educational, dramatic, and musical profession, music therapy is arguably one of the most difficult professions in the nation. As a student, one must complete three practicum experiences, an educational field experiences, a recreational music course, 180 pre-internship hours, the interview of a board-certified therapist, several psychology courses, and music courses on a primary and secondary instrument, all while participating in University ensembles and completing core university requirements. On the way to board-certification, many lose hold of that dream that initially led them to where they are, and they walk away from the profession. However, the dedicated music therapy student will find a way to succeed; they will face the obstacles with confidence and determination, knowing that their efforts will be worth it when they receive their certification and are licensed to work in the community. Furthermore, upon receiving certification, one must also understand when it is beneficial to take a break from working. As a music therapist, Compassion Fatigue is a common occurrence, especially when working in palliative and chronic illness care. However, in order to maintain personal health, it is important for a music therapist to understand the importance of self-care, and remember that although they may have the privilege to work in a career they love, they are still a person separate from their job.

Personal Skills, Strengths, and Weaknesses

Personally, I believe that my most well-developed skills and traits are my optimism and persistence. I am a firm believer in stressing progress rather than comparison when working with others; I want individuals to understand that they do not need to have any prior musical training to participate in therapeutic interventions. Rather, I want them to focus on where they are today, and how much they have grown over the course of treatment. Furthermore, I am persistent. Throughout my entire life, I have been recognized for my work ethic; whenever I have a goal, I put in all of my energy to achieve it. This means that no matter how difficult it becomes, I will find a way to help my client achieve their own goals, and I will make sure to show them that I will do whatever I can to ensure that all needs are met.

As a student music therapist, I believe that my main weakness is my performance anxiety. Anxiety was not a major hindrance to my musical performance originally; however, this past year, it has become a major stumbling block. Both musically and socially, I have found increased difficulty in making eye contact, communicating with peers and professors, initiating conversation, and performing in front of trained musicians. I am unsure if this is the result of an anxiety disorder (as I have avoided psychoanalytic therapy my entire life); however, I plan to begin attending counseling sessions to improve my interpersonal and musical skills to ensure that I am able to continue to pursue music therapy as a profession.

My Future in Music Therapy

While the field of music therapy is highly interesting to me, unfortunately it does not seem likely that I will be continuing in the major. Due to an unsuccessful audition, I will not be able to study here at Baldwin Wallace. Although I could hypothetically audition again in the Fall semester, I do not believe that I will be able to perform well under the pressure of presenting in front of professors whom have previously rejected me. On the contrary, in the event of a successful audition, paying for two extra years of liberal arts college is too difficult financially. Therefore, I am auditioning at Cleveland State University (where I would plan to double major Music Therapy and Education), Wright State University, and Wittenberg University to pursue a Bachelor of Music Education. After, I may consider Post-Baccalaureate studies in order to prepare to take the Board Examination.

Furthermore, I am switching to a Music Education major due to an increased interest in educating children with mild and moderate special needs. After completing a field experience in a fourth grade resource room, I have discovered that I am passionate about teaching young children who live with intellectual disabilities. I want to teach the students how to become musicians as well, rather than solely focusing on using music as an intervention. Therefore, I believe that I may be needed more in the field of education than I am in therapy.

Although I am not continuing in the study of music therapy for the time being, I believe that what I have learned in this course will benefit me greatly as a special needs music teacher someday, in the event that I do not become a music therapist. At any given time in a special education classroom, there will be children with multiple types of disabilities, ranging from Attention Deficit Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down Syndrome, and other common exceptionalities. Therefore, learning how individuals living with these conditions will aide me in providing the highest quality education and care, showing them that no matter where their musical and non-musical abilities lie, they can always find peace and comfort in music-making. Anyone can learn how to make beautiful music, if only someone gives them the chance.

My Educational Philosophy

Education and school settings are important because they teach the individuals of the future generations the skills and values that may benefit them and their community someday. Ultimately, this is my inspiration for becoming a teacher: serving as a mentor and motivator for all students in the community, so that they may have the opportunity to not only contribute to the existing society, but so that they may also leave the world a better place than it was when they arrived. Some of the key components of education in the school setting include but are not limited to the teaching of the core subjects (mathematics, language arts, natural sciences, and social studies), spiritual and religious curriculum, physical and athletic activity, and embracing cultural and personality diversity. Many of my values are derived from that of existentialism; my personal philosophy is that education in itself serves as a tool to aid children in finding meaning and purpose in their own lives, guiding them to find their own sets of beliefs in lieu of adults directing each child’s learning experience. Furthermore, school settings are important because students are socialized by their peers; additionally, students are known to learn best through discussion and non-lecture activities. Such philosophers that serve as leaders of the theory of existentialism are A.S. Neill and Maxine Greene.

A.S. Neill, the creator of the Summerhill school, created the school in order to encourage children to become independent, making their own decisions on what they want to learn. More recently, Maxine Greene held the belief that it is crucial for students to find meaning in their lives. She was an advocate for the use of humanities and arts in school settings, as they move individuals to become more aware of the world around them (198).

As an educator, I hope to teach my students about how their work will ultimately contribute to the greater good. As an aspiring music educator and therapist, I want to diverge from the standard education that solely focuses on the performance of Western music. Instead, I intend to teach my students Ethnomusicology, how to interpret the poetry of the piece’s lyrics, and how to apply their knowledge to their own life, whether that is through the composition of their own works or an application in an entirely different field of interest. In the classroom, my students will engage in small group discussions with their peers about the course’s material (as well as the music that they listen to in their personal time), present pieces to the class/studio, and participate in group activities such as drum circles and song leading exercises. I will provide the instruments to them (a piano, guitars, percussive instruments, recorders, etc.). In addition, I intend to teach them life lessons that they will encounter anywhere they go, especially the experiences of failure and loss, and how they can survive any dilemma through perseverance. I believe that these are skills that should be taught in schools, so that children can grow into fully-functioning, emotionally intelligent adults who can take the lessons that they learn in school and apply the knowledge to improve their personal life and lives of others.

With the theory of essentialism, it can be inquired whether or not its effectiveness can truly be measured. Therefore, I intend to assess my children’s work through comparing their skills and knowledge with where they were previously, assessing their progress rather than comparing them to where traditional teaching standards think they “should” be. Rather, I believe in using beginning- and end-of-year assessments and performances to measure the effectiveness of my teaching strategies.

Until the Journey’s End: My Music Therapy Story

NOTE: The post written below is an admissions essay that I wrote for the Baldwin Wallace University Conservatory of Music in order to be considered for acceptance into their Music Therapy program. Ultimately, I was rejected, and am currently considering transferring to Wright State University, Cleveland State University, College of Wooster, or Wittenberg University (whose music program I have already become familiar with, as I attended workshops with Dr. Kazez there during my senior year of high school). While this is disappointing, and I am still very sad about having to leave BW after sophomore year, I believe that, much like as is stated in Death Cab for Cutie’s ‘Black Sun,’ “there is beauty in a failure.” 

What this means to me is that in every failure, there is something good that will come out of it. It is very difficult to be optimistic about something I worked so hard for, just to crack under pressure in the audition room. Honestly, I do not know what will come out of this; I invested a lot of time and energy (and stress… lots of stress… and some tears but whatever lol) into hopefully becoming a student music therapist, so it’s kind of difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but still. “So, why are you sharing your admissions essay if you didn’t even get in?” you may ask. Good question!

Well, honestly, I just want this to be public record (for the same reason I have published my other college essays on here) so that it can be read by more than just the few admissions officers who probably won’t remember anything about it; after all, this is just one essay out of hundreds that were reviewed. Additionally, I know that there were a few people who my parents informed about my audition who may be wondering how it went (to answer y’all: my major is Early Childhood Education). I don’t really feel like talking about it or my future plans in person, so… this post kind of serves as an explanation for some things. Also, I spent like three months writing this essay, so I want it to be on display somewhere. There are some grammatical errors and a few things that I wish I did/didn’t include in the final draft, but for the sake of authenticity, the essay below is exactly what was submitted.

(MORE DISCLAIMERS: In the section when I start talking about the specific years of my father’s timeline, they might not necessarily be 100% accurate. The only years that I know for certain are correct are the year of his retirement (2003), the year he wanted to retire (2013), and the year of his diagnosis (1992). The rest are educated guesses because my memory is kinda weird. Like, I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I found out Michael Jackson died (someone whose music I didn’t even listen to while he was alive) but I can’t remember these dates that are actually kinda relevant to my life. Which, for the record, when I found out Michael Jackson died I was in New Philadelphia, Ohio at a church summer camp painting a kid’s nails. It was a Thursday, and I’m pretty sure it was June 25th. I had just finished fifth grade and– ANYWAY! That is all.)

Well, I think that’s all that needs to be covered before I write the essay below! Remember, kids– life has many setbacks, but that’s no excuse to give up. *finger guns*

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Looking back on the past eighteen years of my life, there is no set path that led me to pursue a career in music therapy. In fact, there have been several instances that I have lost my way, hoping to find peace in other areas of interest. However, from the very first days of my life, I have encountered signs on the side of the path that have led me back to the main road.

I am the youngest child in a family of five (seven, if you include our two dogs), and all of us except for my biology-loving sister, Faith, have performed in music ensembles. My mother spent much of her teenage years as the only alto clarinetist in the now-defunct Cleveland All-City Orchestra, performing in Severance Hall and in other venues throughout the Cleveland area. My father is a jazz-trained bass guitarist, who has over thirty years of experience in jazz bands, military music ensembles, orchestras, and church music groups. My eldest sister, Charity, performed as a soprano in our local high school’s Varsity choir, performing in concert venues all over the United States.

It goes without saying that as the baby of the family, I have been immersed in music from the very first days of my life. As a young child, I would often attend my father’s rehearsals, admiring how he played his bass guitar with such ease and great energy. In these rehearsals, I remember thinking, “I want to be just like my daddy someday.”

Soon, I found myself following in the footsteps of my parents shortly after singing my first vocal solo in a church service at the age of ten. I then began to teach myself new strumming techniques on the acoustic guitar, purchased an autoharp, and even learned a major scale or two on the violin.

After years of exploring my musical interests, I began performing in the community through participating in music theatre and vocal performance master classes through the Victoria Theatre Association and Human Race Theatre Company, along with training in music theatre vocal repertoire with Ashley Leasure, a Master of Music at the Wright State University. Selections representative of my lessons with her are Boublil and Schonberg’s “On My Own” and “I Dreamed a Dream,” along with several selections from Avenue Q and Jekyll & Hyde. During my time training with her, I was cast as a Mezzo-Soprano in the Miami Valley Symphony Orchestra and Dayton Playhouse production of Les Miserables, as well as being given the opportunity to perform with the Miami Valley Symphony again under the direction of David Deitrick during their last concert of the 2014-2015 season, a production of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony no. 9.

Overlapping the time I spent rehearsing and performing with the orchestra, two of my friends also decided to form a self-conducted small vocal ensemble, performing an a cappella rendition of “Mary Did You Know” at the Ohio Fine Arts Festival (myself singing the alto and tenor parts) and eventually performing at the National Fine Arts Festival in Orlando, Florida (at which we received a Superior rating). Throughout the course of my final year of high school that followed, I performed with my school’s senior vocal ensemble at graduation, and even originated a voice acting role in the Dayton Writers Movement audio drama Unwritten. However, even though I thoroughly enjoyed participating in the arts, my college career began on an entirely different track.

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INTERRUPTION (sorry)

Attached are two of the three recorded “Mary Did You Know” performances.

Above: This is us singing offertory a few months before Nationals. I’m the first soloist, and the middle voice during harmony. I ran out of breath a couple times in this.

Above: Yes, I’m wearing a headscarf. It was 2 a.m., which explains what happened at 1:11.

Above: This last video is actually me on a really bad vocal day, but overall this is probably the best one.

Okay, sorry. Back to the essay.

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As college auditions were drawing near, I found myself growing more and more unsure of my capabilities. Although it is true that I have had several performance opportunities, I still felt inadequate compared to my peers; none of the schools I attended while growing up had music programs, I had not been able to take as many private lessons as most musicians due to the financial and logistical struggles of dealing with my father’s illness, and I simply felt unprepared. I found myself cancelling auditions just as soon as I scheduled them, ultimately deciding to major in Criminal Justice instead.

It didn’t take very long to realize that I had made a mistake in choosing my major. Every day, I would wake up and remind myself that it would just be another class to sit through, another exam to take, another four years of studying a field I wasn’t truly passionate about. This short period of my life would pass faster than I would know; technically, I didn’t even have to use my degree. I just needed to study something, even if I spent my days staring at the clock. I never felt that connection to my major that everyone else seemed to have; everyone else seemed to have a sense of pride when asked what their major was. I, however, wanted nothing to do with mine.

I still wanted to do something in the field of music. Even more so, I wanted to do something that would positively impact my community. Luckily, during my first semester here at Baldwin Wallace, I was given the opportunity to participate in two organizations that would change my perspective on my career as I knew it: BW Singers and America Reads.

Performing as an Alto II under the direction of Dr. Weagraff, I found myself learning more and more about choral music every day; in BW Singers I found myself surrounded by both with similar experience and abilities, which shattered my expectation of the Conservatory being a cut-throat environment and restored some of the confidence I lost during my last year of high school. However, my work-study position with America Reads is what truly got me out of the Criminal Justice major.

America Reads is a tutoring program provided by the Cuyahoga County Public Library system through which students in grades Kindergarten-Grade 8 participate in after-school tutoring at one of the Cuyahoga library branches. In October, I began working at the Parma branch as a student tutor. Many of our students come from underprivileged backgrounds, receive low marks in school, or live with cognitive disabilities. As I spent more of my week days outside of work trying to find new ways to help my students with disabilities, I began to realize that perhaps my interests truly lied in working with those affected by mental and physical handicaps. I knew I wanted to work with music, but I didn’t want to simply perform; I also did not feel like a career in music education would be the best option for me, either. I also knew that I wanted to help rehabilitate those suffering from impairments, but I didn’t want to be a physical or occupational therapist.

Like many confused college students, I called my mother to ask for her advice. “Why don’t you consider a career in music therapy?” she asked. It was at that moment that everything made sense, as I was already quite familiar with music therapy due to my father’s struggle with Multiple Sclerosis.

Diagnosed with M.S. in 1992, my father’s careers in the Air Force and music performance both eventually had to be cut short. Being a progressive disease, the disease slowly took away the things he loved in small steps. First, he was forced to retire ten years earlier than he had hoped due to his inability to walk without limping. Having been born in the latter years of his military career, I have very few memories of my father’s time in the service. However, I do have vivid memories of my father’s passion for continuing in his Air Force career, hoping to retire in 2013 after thirty years of service. Returning back to civilian life was difficult, and not even two years after retiring from the Air Force, he was also unable to remain in the work force. Then, he became more reliant on walking with a cane. In 2011, he stopped driving. In 2013, even walking with a cane became too dangerous, and he began using a walker. And in 2014, he lost the most important thing to him: his ability to play his bass guitar at the level of proficiency necessary to keep up with the music.

In the present day, my father often uses a motorized wheelchair to get around public spaces, while he is still able to walk very short distances at home. He has lost most of the functioning on the right side of his body, which makes daily tasks such as writing or using eating utensils difficult. Furthermore, his cognitive ability is declining at a steady rate, and his memory continues to weaken more each day.

My father began attending music therapy sessions at the Dayton Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center after years of participating in occupational and physical therapy. Working with the institution’s board-certified music therapist, he was able to work with different strumming techniques and musical exercises to improve his physical strength. Unfortunately, my father’s therapist has recently retired, and the medical center has not found a replacement for her. While my family is fortunately financially stable enough to hire a private-practicing music therapist, many of the other veterans at the VA solely rely on their veterans’ benefits to receive health care, and have been forced to terminate music therapy treatment until the center hires a replacement.

Living near the University of Dayton (where there is a music therapy program), it is rather confusing that there are so few music therapists, and frankly, it is disturbing. Time and time again, music therapy has produced evidence of being beneficial to all people; yet so few have access to it.

I want to help change that. After that phone conversation with my mother that day, I knew that I had found what I wanted to do with my life. I began working with Blaine Heeter, a Master of Music at Wright State University and teacher at Stivers School for the Arts, on the pieces that I will be presenting at my upcoming audition, which include Reynaldo Hahn’s “L’Heure Exquise” in B flat major. After last semester ended, I also met with a local piano teacher in the Dayton area to learn to play the hymn “How Great Thou Art,” which I will be performing in the piano placement portion of the audition.

In addition to preparing my performances, I have also registered for many of the required music courses. I am in my second semester of BW Singers, I am enrolled in Performance Attendance, Beginning Guitar Class, Introduction to Music Therapy, and Educating Children with Special Needs. As a student in Professor Edie Hardin-Steiner’s Introduction to Music Therapy course, I have observed and interviewed Amy Schneider, MT-BC at Laurel Lake Retirement Community. I have also begun attending Cleveland Student Music Therapist club meetings in order to become more involved in Baldwin Wallace’s music therapy community. In addition, I am a declared Applied Music minor and an advisee under Professor Nanette Canfield.

I believe that I am a strong candidate for Baldwin Wallace’s music therapy program for a multitude of reasons. Not only have I taken music courses and extracurricular activities here, but I also have completed the majority of the prerequisite courses necessary. I have already taken Principles of Psychological Science, Principles of Sociology, Workshop in Exposition and Argument, and the First-Year Experience requirement (receiving grades of A and A+ in all of the courses). In addition, I have achieved a 3.911 GPA during my first semester here at BW and have a strong work ethic. This upcoming summer, I plan on taking extra Biology, Psychology and HPE courses in order to finish the remainder of my prerequisites; I also plan on attending the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music choral conducting workshop in July. Furthermore, being a year older, I am more prepared. Having spent a semester here already, I am well-adjusted to the expectations of college life, and due to the time I have spent in the liberal arts departments, I can say that I have adequately explored my other options, and am certain that a career in music therapy would be a good fit for me.

I believe that there are many ways that I could positively impact the world as a music therapist. Due to my family’s personal experience with musical interventions with Multiple Sclerosis, I have developed an interest in using music therapy as a means for helping clients suffering from autoimmune and neurodegenerative disorders. In addition, I am also interested in pursuing geriatric care, working in a retirement home in the Cleveland area. After spending a few years in the practice, I plan on pursuing a Master’s degree in Psychology, so that I can further develop my understanding of mental, intellectual, and developmental disorders and apply the knowledge to enhance my therapeutic services.

At the end of the day, there are so many possibilities with the field of music therapy that it is impossible for me to pin down a single path I would like to take with it. However, I believe that the Baldwin Wallace Conservatory will help me realize my potential as a student music therapist, and I believe that I have the persistence, the passion, and the creativity necessary to thrive as a member of BW’s learning community.

I know that I have much to contribute to Baldwin Wallace Conservatory of Music’s class of 2021, and I know that I have so much that I need to learn. I know that there will be many challenges that come my way as a non-freshman beginning the music therapy track; I understand that I will not be graduating with my original class. However, I am excited to face whatever challenges come my way, and I am prepared to do whatever it takes, for however long it takes in order to make a difference in the lives of my future clients. I look forward to the opportunities that studying music therapy at Baldwin Wallace will bring, and I plan on seeing it through to the very end.

“I won’t lose hope until I go the distance and my journey is complete.”

-Michael Bolton, ‘Go the Distance’

 

What Makes a Monster and What Makes a Man: The Importance of Fairy Tales in Early Childhood

Bruno Bettelheim’s study, The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales, offers insight into the reason fairy and folk tales are often used to teach children lessons, using illustrations for topics that would otherwise be difficult for parents to discuss with their children. While many adults only desire to present pleasant images to children, teaching that there is no evil in the world is inefficient; youth are quick to pick up on the notion that there is. Bettelheim argues that through Sigmund Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis, mankind is enabled to accept life’s struggles without allowing themselves to be defeated, but instead strengthened by their experiences and thus given meaning for their existence. Fairy tales are able to deliver these themes to offspring through following a structure similar to that of a daydream, through which they can be taught that while pain and suffering are inevitable, they may overcome their problems with great effort. Therefore, due to the benefits fairy tales pose for child development, Disney’s retelling of Victor Hugo’s classic Notre-Dame de Paris is efficient in teaching children to appreciate and understand other cultures through telling the story in a simplified format. Additionally, although Bruno Bettelheim’s research on fairy tales is shown to lack objectivity, Heike vom Orde proves that fairy tales are essential in child development, due to their efficiency in teaching values while also keeping the attention span of their audience.

Many tales begin with the death of a parent or another traumatic event. In order for young children to understand, the situation is simplified and unimportant details are omitted. The stories have a large focus on battles of good versus evil; a character is either good or bad, teaching children to easily comprehend the difference between the two. Although no one is truly good or evil in reality, Bettelheim argues that presenting such complexity in characters may confuse the young audience. Therefore, the protagonist and antagonist are displayed as distinct opposites, often leading the child to favor the character they can sympathize with the most: the character they believe to be “good.” This is likely because children can relate to the common theme of a character’s desire for a sense of belonging or to overcome one’s fears. The fairy tale then becomes a symbol of hope, reminding them that even the meekest of souls can achieve greatness (Bettelheim).

Psychologist Heike vom Orde further studies this approach in her article, Children Need Fairy Tales, conducting research through surveying young audiences and discussing the reception and criticism of Bettelheim’s claims. In the survey given, it is shown that 56% of German children ranging from the ages of nine to nineteen enjoy fairy tales, while 38% of those surveyed do not. A small margin of 6% only enjoy a few fairy tales (Orde, 1). Additionally, Orde addresses the concerns of the theory’s critics, who often stated that the work fails to reflect on the socializing function of folk tales and differentiates too little between folk tales and modern literature. Furthermore, Orde states that research proves Bettelheim’s claim that children enjoy fairy tales more than other children’s literature to be unsustainable. Additionally, Bettelheim is criticized for not having acknowledged the subjectivity of his interpretations. However, it is agreed that fairy tales are essential in child development, teaching children cultural values and morals.

Several adaptations of fairy tales have come into existence, most notably the works of the Walt Disney Animation Studios. Famous for its adaptations of tales such as The Little Mermaid and The Beauty Sleeping in the Wood (Sleeping Beauty), in 1996 the company released The Hunchback of Notre Dame as a child-friendly version of the classic Victor Hugo novel.

Originally published in 1831, Notre-Dame de Paris begins at the 1482 Festival of Fools, for which the physically and mentally handicapped Quasimodo leaves the bell tower of Notre Dame against the advice of his adoptive father, Archdeacon Claude Frollo. Later, after ordering Quasimodo to leave the festival, he orders him to aide in attacking a gypsy performer named Esmerelda as she walks home. Quasimodo is later arrested and tried for his crime; however, he is shown mercy by the young gypsy when she offers him water to drink during his public punishment. Esmerelda wins the affection of Quasimodo and Frollo, although she does not return the same affection to any of them; instead, she falls in love with one of the King’s soldiers, Phoebus de Chateaupers. This makes Frollo jealous, leading him to become obsessive and filled with lust for her. That night, he finds Phoebus and stabs him, accusing Esmerelda of his supposed death. While she awaits execution, Frollo visits her in her cell and gives her an ultimatum: she can love him or face death. She decides to face execution, and is hanged. At the cathedral, Quasimodo discovers her corpse and becomes furious, sending Frollo to his death by throwing him from the north tower. Upon seeing the cadavers of both the man who raised him and the woman he held dear, Quasimodo cries, “This is everything I ever loved.” After the events of the story, it is revealed that next to Esmerelda’s remains are the bones of a “hunchback,” as a depressed Quasimodo starves himself to death and dies by her side (Hugo).

In the 1996 Walt Disney film adaptation, the story follows a pattern that is much simpler for a child’s cognitive ability and attention span to follow. The film begins with the murder of Quasimodo’s mother, following the typical trope of fairy tales beginning with the loss of a parent. Then, despite the original novel’s diverse personalities in each character which often blur the lines of good and evil, Disney structures the story to fit the format of a fairy tale; there is a specific villain, Claude Frollo, whom is given few redeeming qualities; viewers are rarely shown his paternal side, and instead are conditioned to dislike him as he limits Quasimodo from accomplishing his dreams, attempts the genocide of those of Roma ethnicity, murders Quasimodo’s mother, and sings of his lust for Esmeralda (revised spelling of her original name), praying that “she will be mine or she will burn [in Hell] (Hulce et al.).” Through seeing the effects of Frollo’s oppression of Quasimodo and the gypsies, the audience is unable to sympathize with him, and instead are drawn to Quasimodo. In addition, not only are viewers taught to dislike Frollo, they are repulsed by the symbols for which he stands: corrupt leadership, racism, and sexism. Although children may not fully understand either concept at their age, they are shown the consequences that Frollo and the other characters face for his actions and the turmoil it causes them, leading the audience to understand how his behavior is harmful to society. After Frollo’s defeat, Quasimodo’s wish to be accepted into society is fulfilled, the gypsies are able to live in freedom, and the Parisians appear to be pleased with the outcome.

While Disney’s retelling is not as complex as the original literature, one must understand that the target audience would not have the capacity to truly appreciate the work in its unabridged form. However, the story’s themes of acceptance and freedom are still highly important for children to be taught; therefore, the only way to ensure the message would be instilled in a child’s mind is to follow the format of stories children are used to hearing.

Furthermore, the original novel deals with explicit themes of sex and murder; while the Disney version does touch upon these topics, it does so in a subtle form so that the audience is not distracted from the most important theme: acceptance. Utilizing every single detail from the original tale would only confuse a child, as their brain is not yet fully developed and does not yet understand the complex nature of many of Hugo’s topics. In addition, Hugo’s work is difficult for many adults to comprehend, often leaving the common citizen confused and only able to focus on the tragic ending in which all three principal characters meet a devastating death. Children are especially sensitive to traumatic events, often becoming psychologically damaged and subconsciously fearful due to being exposed to traumatic events at a young age. However, through giving the story a happy ending in which Quasimodo achieves many of his dreams, they are encouraged to believe that they too can leave a positive impact on their society, and that no matter where they come from or what they look like, there will always be something they can contribute. The film concludes with the quote, “What makes a monster and what makes a man?” (Kandel et al.) This final question proves the tale’s main point, which is that one’s character cannot be judged off appearance, but on their integrity. This is a lesson that many children will take with them into adulthood; they may only remember a few details, but they will remember all of the ones that matter.

 

 

Works Cited

Bettelheim, Bruno. The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales. N.p.: Johns Hopkins UP, 1976. Print.

Hugo, Victor. Notre-Dame De Paris. N.p.: Gosselin, 1831. Print.

Hulce, Tom, and Tony Jay. By Stephen Schwartz and Alan Menken. Heaven’s Light / Hellfire. 1996. CD.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Dir. Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale. Perf. Tom Hulce, Demi Moore, Tony Jay. Walt Disney Company, 1996. Videocassette.

Kandel, Paul. By Stephen Schwartz and Alan Menken. The Bells of Notre Dame (Reprise). 1996. CD.

Vom Orde, Heike. “Children Need Fairy Tales.” Televizion (2013): 17. Web. 27 Sept. 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Liberation from Sexual Stigma

Prior to the late twentieth century, sex and violence were considered taboo among the general public. Although everyone was aware of the subjects, it was often considered too vulgar or unprofessional to speak of such adult behavior in a public setting. Blues music paved the way for many artists to express and embrace their sexuality. Although the men and women of the genre communicate in different ways (men writing about women in boastful and sexist ways, while women often express emotions of sorrow or sing of homosexual relationships), the use of sexual content in the blues shows audiences all of the frustrations of love and lust.

When blues music began to emerge, it was known for speaking of the pain and pleasure of the working class (Humphrey, 153). In fact, many genres with similar history, such as the tango of Argentina, are known for voicing the taboo—sex, alcoholic consumption, and drugs. Such music is known for giving detailed descriptions of lifestyles that, at that time, were considered scandalous. An example of this type of songwriting is “Walking the Street,” originally performed by Mamie Desdoumes (Desdoumes). The lyrics were later remastered in 1937, stating:

Stood on the corner till my feet got soakin’ wet,

Stood on the corner till my feet got soakin’ wet,

These are the words I said to each and every man I met.

“If you ain’t got a dollar, give me a lousy dime,

If you ain’t got a dollar, give me a lousy dime,

I’ve got to beg and steal to please that man of mine.

The original lyrics communicate that the prostitute works on the streets in order to provide for her husband, yet the later recording expresses the woman’s desire to please her lover, as she is willing to “beg and steal,” if only to keep hold of his love. The song’s lyrics combine the harsh realities of prostitution with the violence the lifestyle is often accompanied with, perhaps showing that sex and violence work hand in hand. While similar women’s blues songs dealing with the theme often are told from experience or out of sympathy, male blues musicians often focus on the physical aspects of a woman, such as in Blind Boy Fuller’s “Meat Shakin’ Woman.” The song’s lyrics are quite possessive, using language similar to referring to one’s property:

If when you boys see my woman you can’t keep her long

I say hey, hey, you can’t keep her long

I got a new way to keep her down, you “monkey men”” can’t catch on

Baby, for my dinner, I want ham and eggs

I say hey, hey, I want ham and eggs

And for my supper, mama, I want to feel your legs

While the lyrics may not be easily seen as violent, it can definitely be argued that they are misogynistic. Through saying, “I got a new way to keep her down,” he sounds like a slave master or brothel owner, communicating that she will always return to him, as she will always be his property (Fuller). He compares her to “ham and eggs,” showing that he views her as a meal that satisfies his inner desires, rather than as a partner. Therefore, although the lyrics are not explicitly violent in describing murder or rape, they encourage the very culture that encourages the maltreatment of females. Blind Boy Fuller is not the only one to use possessive lyrics to describe women, however. In Lonnie Johnson’s “You Can’t Buy Love,” he says:

You can give your woman plenty money,

Dress her up in fancy gowns;

She will tell her outside man

She’s got the dumbest, the dumbest man in town!

These lyrics seem slightly possessive as well, especially through saying “you can give your woman plenty money.” The main point of the stanza is that even when the man works hard for his woman and provides her with everything she could ever ask for (“plenty money” and “fancy gowns,” in this case), she still cannot be trusted to remain faithful (Johnson). While the song is likely told from the perspective of someone who has been cheated on, and it is a valid reason to be upset, a man should not be angry at a woman for such because of what he has done for her and what she can give him in return; rather, he should see her as an equal who will stay because she loves him, and not solely because she needs him to survive. Therefore, it is evident that men’s blues is a product of the time in which it was produced—a time when a man was considered the leader of the household and women were taught to be submissive. However, women’s blues defies the era it began in, teaching women to be proud of their sexuality.

Women’s blues also shows a more humorous view of sex. While Robert Johnson’s “Travelling Riverside Blues” is infamous for the line, “You can squeeze my lemon ‘til the juice run down my leg,” (Johnson) such humor is also found in Lucille Bogan’s “Shave ‘Em Dry,” which describes the singer’s sex life. She can be quoted singing:

Now your nuts hang down

Like a damn bell sapper,

And your dick stands up like a steeple.

Your goddamn ass-hole

Stands open like a church door,

And the crabs walks in like people.

Bogan speaks of her partner’s body parts with slang, often using humorous analogies such as comparing his “ass-hole” to a church door. While this can be considered immature, I believe that it teaches listeners that while physical intimacy can be a private matter, there is no shame in celebrating its pleasures. In fact, it can be fun. For example, Lucille Bogan also is known for her song, “B.D. Woman’s Blues,” “B.D.” meaning “Bull Dyke,” which is a term for a masculine lesbian (Bogan). In her day, her music was considered especially taboo. In fact, even in the present her lyrics are still considered vulgar. “B.D. Woman’s Blues” is one of the first blues songs to openly talk about lesbianism, stating that “Comin’ a time, B.D. women ain’t gonna need no men / Oh the way they treat us is a lowdown and dirty sin.” The lyrics describe the harsh reality of being a woman in her time; women were often treated as lesser beings and treated horribly by men. Therefore, a woman might be able to find comfort in having a relationship with another woman instead, as women can understand each other’s experiences. The music of Lucille Bogan shows women as every bit as diverse as men can be, owning their own sexuality and being unafraid to call out the sexist and violent behaviors of men.

While the sexist nature of some blues songs can certainly be considered a flaw of the artist, it is not a reflection on the entire genre. In fact, I believe that singing about sex helps people to understand it better. Growing up in a society where no one would talk about it, I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for people in that time to understand their sexual feelings without being ashamed of them. Furthermore, homosexuality was considered a taboo topic, and “coming out” as a gay man or lesbian would mean being removed from the church or even risking losing a job. However, even if society was having trouble embracing new sexual concepts and understanding feminism, the blues gave—and continues to give—a safe haven to those searching for it.

Works Cited

Allen, Fulton. “Meat Shakin’ Woman.” By Fulton Allen. 1938.

Bogan, Lucille. “B.D. Woman’s Blues.” By Lucille Bogan. 1935.

Bogan, Lucille. “Shave ‘Em Dry.” By Lucille Bogan. 1935.

Desdoumes, Mamie. “Walking the Street.” By Mamie Desdoumes. 1937.

Humphrey, Mark. “Urban Blues.” Nothing But the Blues. Ed. Lawrence Cohn. New York: Abbeville Group, n.d. 153. Print.

Johnson, Lonnie. “You Can’t Buy Love.” 1952.

Johnson, Robert. “Traveling Riverside Blues.” By Robert Johnson. 1937.

 

My Personal Experiences with Mathematics

In all honesty, I have struggled with mathematics since fifth grade. While arithmetic patterns have come naturally to me, the introduction of pre-algebra concepts greatly confused me as I entered my pre-adolescent years. I am unsure if I found it difficult due to the expectation of increased difficulty (which therefore affected my attitude towards mathematics), or simply due to my lack of familiarity with algebraic concepts, such as linear and inverse equations. However, entering eighth grade pre-algebra classes proved to be the most difficult academic experience in my entire K-12 career.

By the time I entered eighth grade, my mathematical knowledge was hardly at a sixth grade student’s level; I had no prior knowledge of the linear formula y=mx+b, often simply leaving the formula as my answer in lieu of inserting the corresponding terms. Furthermore, taking notes in class felt hopeless; my note-taking methods had worked well in all of my other classes—I was otherwise an A student—however, I was consistently failing my math tests, no matter how hard I tried. One factor that made the situation even more stressful was the requirement to receive a score of 80% or higher on all tests in the course; otherwise, a student would receive a failing score, no matter how high they scored on homework assignments and quizzes. Although we were given the opportunity to revise our exams, it was often difficult for me to revise up to the required percentage.

At the end of the second quarter of the academic year, I had been rather pleased with my performance in the course; I had an 84% average, along with receiving mostly A’s in my other classes. However, when I received my report card in the mail, I was notified that I had received an F due to earning a 75% on an exam. I remember feeling dejected, wondering how I would survive high school coursework if I hadn’t even performed well in my middle school assessments. While my teacher was willing to tutor me into the beginning of the next quarter, and ultimately allowed me to re-take the test (resulting in receiving a revised report card a few weeks later, stating that I received a B in the course), this experience has still stood out to me as one of my most memorable academic failures.

This experience likely stood out to me due to it serving as a wake-up call for my study habits. Previously, I had believed that there was nothing that could be done about my difficulties in math; some people have a natural aptitude for the sciences, and some are more inclined to the arts. However, through the intense study sessions I endured in the effort to improve my test score, I learned that while I may not have a natural talent for scientific studies, it is my work ethic that truly led to achieving success. Therefore, for the final two quarters of the school year, I earned A’s in the course. To this very day, my hardships and triumphs during my eighth grade year serve as a reminder that nothing is impossible through perseverance.

Although my most difficult experience did simultaneously prove to be rewarding, it was not the only positive experience I had. In fact, my greatest experience to date has been teaching my fellow classmates how to create an equation for a sinusoidal function. In my junior year of high school, I participated in Honors Algebra II. I had managed to maintain an A average over the course of the year, although my most memorable experience was when I had been placed in a group of two girls who had a very minimal understanding of the subject. These girls were graduating seniors that year (all of the other students were juniors), one of which often was required to skip class due to prenatal health appointments. Therefore, neither of them fully understood the course material, and we would be taking a test over sinusoidal functions by the end of the following week. While I had gained a sufficient understanding of the course material, there were still small details that I did not feel completely confident about. However, I developed small lesson plans to instruct my group about different aspects of the functions each day, often answering their questions and seeking help from our instructor on the more difficult problems. Through teaching them, I was able to learn more about my study methods, my personality, and how I can better communicate with others in order to reach a common goal. As a result, all three of us passed the test, and I even scored above a 100%.

At the end of the day, these experiences have made me a much more understanding person, which I believe will help me to become an efficient teacher. These lessons have taught me that while every student learns in different ways, each and every one of them will succeed if they are given the chance. Through the encouragement of my peers, teachers, and self-driven persistence, I was able to evolve from earning mediocre grades, to eventually graduating as an officer in our chapter of the National Honor Society, placing approximately 12th in our class of 63. Furthermore, it is not only my improved grades and test scores that reflect the impact the experiences had on me, but the overarching theme that it is not one’s talent that leads them to success, but it is the support of their peers and educators, along with improved work ethic, that drive students to pursue their dreams. That is a skill that will apply long after graduation, and will last for a lifetime.

The Psychological Power of Faith

Since the first humans roamed the Earth, there has always been a quest for the meaning of life. Individuals have often turned to religion as an answer to all of life’s questions, such as what occurs when one dies, if there is a higher power or deity in existence, and for guidance on spiritual and physical healing. While it cannot be scientifically proven whether spiritual legends of healing (such as the miracles of Jesus Christ in the Christian faith) are accurate, it is undeniable that many religions, despite the uncertainty of which religion is “correct,” have brought their followers peace of mind and happiness. Therefore, it may not be surprising that most individuals residing in the United States, whether actively participating in organized religious activities or not, have expressed a belief in a higher power. Over the past 50 years, more than 90% of Americans have consistently expressed a belief in a god; more than 60% of which also pray on a daily basis (Miller). Furthermore, more than two-thirds report having membership to a church, mosque, or synagogue. Many individuals also report that participating in their religious practices has positively impacted their psychological, emotional, and physical health through receiving a sense of purpose in their life, being given hope in times of adversity, and aiding individuals in decision-making processes. Therefore, it can be argued that spirituality and religion are beneficial to one’s health; although it is not any specific religion’s doctrine that can bring healing, but it encourages believers to find purpose in their lives, to be optimistic in adversity, and to follow “signs” which directly impact their decisions. Additionally, while all followers who practice spiritual rituals benefit greatly from the psychological effects of the practices, it is only the most devout who are able to achieve true enlightenment.

Among many of the psychological disorders often helped through meditation and spirituality (not intended to replace medication), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms have been found to be reduced in African-American women through the practice of religion in a study conducted by Dr. Thema Bryant-Davis et al. According to the study, the African-American female demographic was chosen due to their increased risk of experiencing sexual assault. Furthermore, due to persisting sexual stigma and racism in American society, black women are the least likely to seek help from formal agencies, such as law enforcement and psychological counseling. Therefore, the researchers inferred that perhaps the women would be more likely seek help from psychological and philosophical experts when religious and spiritual coping techniques are employed. The study was then conducted for one year, experimenting on 252 sexual assault survivors located in the Chicago metropolitan area. After the first progress check on the victims’ symptoms, it was found that several women had not yet experienced a decrease in PTSD symptoms (Davis). However, at Time 2, it was found that social support and religious coping indeed helped survivors better cope with their symptoms, even if the symptoms were not entirely abolished. Therefore, while the individuals’ religious beliefs may not have caused their symptoms to cease altogether, they were still able to find new methods to cope with their trauma and have the courage to seek help from professionals as well.

Further studying the effects of spirituality’s effects on psychological health, Dr. Jeffrey Greeson et al. studies the effects of a technique known as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (hereafter referred to as MBSR) on individuals struggling with clinical depression. MBSR is a meditation program not affiliated with any specific religion that is known to treat major depression symptoms. Prior to the study on the treatment’s effectiveness, there was little known about the participants’ personal spiritual backgrounds. Therefore, the study tested whether individual differences in religion and spiritual maturity affect MBSR’s efficacy (Greeson). Throughout the experimentation process, psychological professionals analyzed 322 adults for a total of eight weeks. In the full study sample, it was discovered that the severity of depressive symptoms significantly decreased across all of the subgroups, which include but are not limited to religion, spiritual growth, sex, and baseline symptom severity. The most significant factor in successful results was discovered to be a result of changes in spirituality and mindfulness; as individuals became more open to embracing new ideas and participating in retrospective activities (most commonly meditation), they became more devoted to engaging in MBSR activities, ultimately achieving optimal results and experiencing a significant decrease in depressive symptoms. Therefore, although the meditation training program is not affiliated with any particular faith, the act of meditation in itself, which is utilized in most contemporary religions (such as the spiritual practice of prayer, which is a significant activity in religions focusing on the presence of a deity, and involves a vast amount of retrospection), is potent enough to not only decrease symptoms of depression, but also to increase one’s mindfulness, overall attitude, and spiritual awareness.

In addition to the psychological impact of faith, studies have also discovered psychosomatic effects as well. Chittaranjan Andrade, Professor of Psychopharmacology for the National Institutes of Health, has further discussed the common belief of healing through prayer through illustrating randomized controlled trials on prayer and healing. Andrade conducted a study on three possible outcomes of prayer: the possibility of prayer improving a situation’s outcome, having no effect on the outcome, and the possibility of worsening outcomes. Although Andrade admits that it is difficult to truly observe the positive effects of spirituality from a scientific perspective, it is evident that stress management techniques utilized in prayer (which, as previously stated, is a form of meditation) are often correlated with improved mental and biological health. Such benefits include reduced ambulatory blood pressure, reduced heart rate, altered levels of melatonin and serotonin, improved immune responses, and enhanced self-esteem. This became evident when the three outcome studies were conducted. When studying improved outcomes, he requested individuals to participate in intercessory prayer on wound healing in a nonhuman species. When the 22 bush babies were divided into randomized prayer and control groups over a 4-week period, it was found that the bush babies who had been placed in a prayer group experienced a greater reduction in wound size compared to the control animals. This discovery is highly important, because due to the species being inhuman, the subjects likely did not experience a placebo effect. In the test of absence of prayer benefits, it was discovered that patients suffering with terminal cardiovascular defects did not benefit from similar intercessory prayer methods, and when studying worsened outcomes associated with prayer, it was discovered that individuals only showed signs of improvement when they were aware they were being prayed for. Therefore, he argues that it is not the prayer in itself that leads to recovery, but the improved mental state it creates in those participating.

In addition to physical benefits, religion can also impact decisiveness in healing. It is important to note Norman Yeung Bik Chung’s “A Faithful Taoist,” which describes the impact Taoism had on his late father (Chung). As his father’s health began to decline as the result of a dying battery in a pace maker inserted into his heart, he found himself faced with two options: undergo surgery to replace the battery and face a long and painful recovery process, or let nature run its course. His father had been considering the latter prior to visiting their local Taoist temple. However, he received a message at the altar which stated, “Go and he will be healed.” Believing it to be a sign from a deity, he received surgery and was able to extend his life for another fifteen years. Years after his death, the Chung explains that he still feels his father’s presence in ways that are difficult to dismiss as coincidence or a work of his own imagination. He then concludes that even if they were written by one of the volunteers at the temple, those few words written on the message his father received at the altar strengthened his father’s will to live, stating, “I will always be grateful to those who gave him the hope none of us in our family could offer.” In the end, he argues that it is not the validity of religion that matters, but instead it is how it affects human life. Chung’s father’s complete trust in the religion led to experiencing fifteen more years of life, assisting him in making the decision that was ultimately the best for his family and personal health.

Therefore, while there are many variables that are difficult to test scientifically due to the various religions and spiritual beliefs present in the world, one can conclude that the meditative practices are helpful in improving one’s mental state, which has a significant effect on other parts of the physical body as well.

Works Cited

Andrade, Chittaranjan, and Rajiv Radhakrishnan. “Prayer and Healing: A Medical and Scientific Perspective on Randomized Controlled Trials.” Indian Journal of Psychiatry 51.4 (2009): 247–253. PMC. Web. 7 Dec. 2016.

Chung, Norman. “A Faithful Taoist.” N.d.

Greeson Jeffrey M., Smoski Moria J., Suarez Edward C., Brantley Jeffrey G., Ekblad Andrew G., Lynch Thomas R., and Wolever Ruth Quillian. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. March 2015, 21(3): 166-174. doi:10.1089/acm.2014.0285.

Miller, W. R., & Thoresen, C. E. (2003). Spirituality, religion, and health: An emerging research field. American Psychologist, 58(1), 24-35. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.58.1.24

 

What I Know Now

This past semester at Baldwin Wallace, I have learned so many things about myself and have become so much more independent than I was in high school. I have grown in many of the ways most people will say: I have learned to manage my own money, manage my time, set my own sleep schedules, and meet new people. However, I have grown the most in learning how to take advantage of every opportunity given.

The first thing I would want a student in the next graduating class to understand is that there is no excuse to not put effort into their dreams. The most significant mistake I ever made when choosing to begin college was allowing my choice of major to be dictated by fear; due to my immense (and bordering on irrational) fear of rejection, I refused to audition for the major I truly wanted to pursue, which was Voice Performance. Instead, I tried to remove the thought from my mind, and trained myself to believe I wanted to study Criminal Justice. However, I went into the major knowing that I did not plan on working in law enforcement, and much to my surprise, I gradually became unhappy working towards a degree I didn’t really want. I ended up in a major that I was not interested in solely because I was afraid of being told “no.” At the end of the day, if I had auditioned, even if I had been rejected, at least I could have known if I had a chance. Therefore, I would tell someone younger than me: you should always strive for the best. Never, ever let fear hinder that goal.

On a similar note, I would also say that there is no shame in changing a major. I have only been here for one semester, yet I have already changed my major to Early Childhood Education. I am unsure if I will continue in the concentration for the rest of my years here (I am also registered for some music classes that could help me transfer into Music Therapy), but I know that I will be much happier in it. The first thing I considered when I thought about changing my major was: what did I dream about as a child? This led me to the idea of becoming a teacher. Ultimately, I believe that this is a good method in determining which major to pursue, as our childhood dreams often reflect our true personalities.

Furthermore, the college years are the best time to truly look within oneself and find their true personality. I am attempting to get involved in most of the school’s departments—BW Singers in the Conservatory, recreational activities in Lou Higgins, perhaps a few foreign language clubs—it is important to understand that as a student here, you are already paying for many of these services. So, why not take advantage of them? I know that if I had never joined BW Singers or had been required to participate in FYE, I likely would have had only two friends.

To further emphasize that point, try not to lock yourself in your dorm room after classes each day. I do that quite frequently, and I am trying to work on getting out more often. Not only does it help socially, but it helps to study in multiple different locations instead of sitting in the same spot for hours at a time.

Most importantly, don’t forget to cherish these next four years of your life. Take pictures, keep journals, stay on top of your studies, study abroad if you can; you’ll never be able to experience life the way it is right now ever again, so be sure that you are making the best decisions possible to ensure that you do not end up with too many regrets. These next four years are what you put into them, so make sure to make them the best they can possibly be.

Lastly, do not be afraid of change. College will change you in ways you didn’t know were possible, and while it may seem scary at first, you will become a better person for it.

The Emergence of Blues Interest in White Americans

Despite its humble beginnings, by the turn of the 20th century, blues music had begun to emerge beyond work hollers and simple guitar chord progressions, flourishing into an art transcending racial boundaries. During this time, the traditionally African-American music began to attract a new audience: white Americans, and even Europeans.

During a time period in which African-Americans were considered to be sub-human by many white folks, it is highly intriguing and rather questionable as to why the white people of the era became fascinated in the music of an ethnicity that many still viewed to be lesser than them. In fact, “white blues” did not emerge in spite of racism, but as I would like to argue, it emerged because of racism.

Many of the most influential white blues performers in the 1920s and 1930s, most notably Jimmie Rodgers and Emmett Miller, began to participate in the art through performing black-face comedy. Jimmie Rodgers, a railroad worker from Mississippi, got his start in music in 1923 when he performed in a tent show (Wolfe, 248). Over the years, he continued to perform in vaudeville groups until eventually meeting the talent scout Ralph Peer, whom had helped release “Crazy Blues” by Mamie Smith. Peer had been hoping to create a new genre of blues known as “hillbilly.” After many sessions, Rodgers successfully recorded the song “T for Texas.” (Rodgers) Due to being raised in a town with a mostly black population, many of the song’s stanzas sounded much like the works of the black singers who came before him (Wolfe, 249).

I’m gonna buy me a pistol

Just as long as I’m tall

I’m gonna buy me a pistol

Just as long as I’m tall

I’m gonna shoot poor Thelma

Just to see her jump and fall

The lyrics echo the violence of the blues songs that came before, such as Bessie Tucker’s “Key to the Bushes.” (Tucker)

Captain got a big horse-pistol

And he thinks he’s bad

I’m gonna take it this mornin’

If he makes me mad

Violence is a common theme in blues music, serving as a reminder of the difficult times most of its artists endured. Especially considering that most blues musicians were black during that time, many of the violence faced was a direct result of being black. While Rodgers may have been white, living in an environment where he was able to see the African-American struggle from a close distance, he likely began to gain an empathy the led him to truly understand blues music beyond simply performing it to poke fun at blacks. While his initial exposure to performing the blues may have been a direct result of the fierce racism in the Southern states, the music proved that art knows no race or gender; art draws humans together through the emotions it raises in us and the experiences it leads us to remember.

Most importantly, Jimmie Rodgers did not solely rely on quoting the music of the musicians who came before him; he brought something new to the table: his yodel. He often used yodels to connect his stanzas. While it is relatively unknown how he came up with the idea, it is likely a result of his work in black-face shows. Another black face artist, Emmett Miller, later continued to develop his yodeling method (Wolfe, 252).

Born in Georgia, Miller also picked up on the behaviors and dialects of the black citizens living there. By the age of sixteen, he also began performing in black-face shows. He became well-known for his ability to “trick sing,” which is when he would sing in falsetto in the middle of a word (Wolfe, 252). After moving to North Carolina, he met Jimmie Rodgers and taught him how to trick-sing. Miller went on to record many of his own songs and to perform with many talented artists; however, he received little recognition for the new style he introduced to the genre (Wolfe, 253).

As interest in preserving blues recordings increased, white Americans have also been known to help raise awareness of the art. John Lomax and his son Alan Lomax are two of the most well-known and well-respected archivists even to this day. In 1932, John Lomax pitched the idea of publishing a collection of “American ballads and folk songs” to his New York publisher. Once the idea was accepted, he worked closely with the Library of Congress to find past blues and folk recordings. During the time, only music written by those of European descent was considered to be real folk music. John H. Cowley states, “Secular black music, associated with what was seen as the tarnished world of minstrelsy, ragtime, and jazz, was treated as worthless.” (Cowley, 269) However, John Lomax and his then-seventeen-year-old son Alan Lomax soon proved the critics wrong. The two went on “field trips” during which they would travel throughout the country to find some of the long-forgotten music, especially non-commercial blues (Cowley, 266). While on their field trips, they visited the Louisiana State Penitentiary and met Huddie Leadbetter, who would later be known as Leadbelly. After recording many of his songs and successfully completing their Library manuscript, the Lomaxes returned to the prison and helped him record his famous pardon song—his second pardon song, as he had previously been imprisoned for murder (Cowley, 272). While it is disputable whether or not his pardon was the result of the Lomaxes, it is undeniable that they played a large role in his popularity. Ultimately, he was arrested again for yet another violent crime. However, the Lomaxes continued to go on field trips and record new artists, forever preserving the art of the blues.

However, what is it that draws white people to the blues? The 1960s was arguably the most significant era of social change, and it directly impacted blues music. Many people began to see it as an art regardless of racial boundaries. As white folks became interested in the blues (especially young college students), blues magazines, books, albums, and festivals began to prove the blues to be a true art form (O’Neal, 348). Over time, as more white people began listening to the blues, more white blues performers began to emerge. One of my favorite musicians from the time I was a young child is Eric Clapton, as my father would always play his song “Tears in Heaven” on his guitar (Clapton). The song heavily relies on the pentatonic scale, although it is written in the key of A Major. The chord progressions follow a familiar pattern to traditional blues, yet still being creative on his part, as the key changes halfway through the chorus.

I V vi IV I V

Would you know my name if I saw you in Heaven

I V vi IV I V

Would it be the same if I saw you in Heaven

(The key then changes to F#m as Clapton finishes the chorus)

I must be strong and carry on

‘Cause I know I don’t belong here in Heaven

 Although the genre has come a long way from work hollers and being seen as a joke solely due to its performers being black, now an art that was originally mocked by white Americans is also enjoyed by them. Their interest in the blues has also greatly influenced more recent genres, such as Rock ‘n Roll and Country. Therefore, while racism may have been the original influence of white blues performers, something good has almost always eventually come of it. As humanity grows to become more accepting of each other’s differences, we learn that there is no racial divide in music. We all can relate to hardship, even if no one experience is the same. While the African-American community has faced slavery, segregation, and discrimination, everyone has faced pain and can learn from the outpouring of emotion blues allows us to experience. After all, Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” expresses much of the same emotion as many earlier blues works, as he laments the death of his young son. Yes, he is a privileged white male. However, he was still able to take a painful experience of his and turn it into one of the most beautiful songs that I have ever heard, and at the end of the day, isn’t that what music is about? Music is not in itself a demonstration of prejudice or poverty. Music is what we make it. And perhaps someday, music is what will make us; it will make us more empathetic and compassionate beings, if only we let it.

Works Cited

Clapton, Eric. “Tears in Heaven.” By Eric Clapton. 1992.

Cowley, John. “Don’t Leave Me Here: The Field Trips, 1924-60.” Nothing But the Blues. Ed.

Lawrence Cohn. New York: Abbeville Group. Print.

O’Neal, Jim. “I Once Was Lost, But Now I’m Found: The Blues Revival of the 1960s.” Nothing

But the Blues. Ed. Lawrence Cohn. New York: Abbeville Group. Print.

Rodgers, James. “Blue Yodel (T for Texas).” By James Rodgers. 1936.

Tucker, Bessie. “Key to the Bushes.” By Bessie Tucker. N.d.

Wolfe, Charles. “A Lighter Shade of Blue: White Country Blues.” Nothing But the Blues. Ed.

Lawrence Cohn. New York: Abbeville Group. Print.