martedì 20 novembre 2018

Suzuki method : a life changing experience

When you stumble across a leaflet offering a music course, the first question coming to your mind is “Why should I choose this course for my son?”.  In today’s world, it’s easy to find lots and lots of offers and proposals. The most appealing ones are related to the concept of “ learning something easily”. Online courses, video lessons, trying out more and more instruments for fun, doing musical activities like in a rec center …. Places where parents can take their children for an hour while they do shopping or come back to work … without even knowing what their children do there.  It seems that todays parents are too busy to do anything with their children, and they need some place where to “put” them, and someone else to look after them all the time. No matter what the goals of these activities are and what the children will learn or obtain being there. Lots of music course for children, in fact, don’t have specific aims or a clear method. Particularly if they are for very young children, the accent of the offer is on “experimenting”, “free their abilities”, “express their personality”, “exploring”, “improvising” and so on … without real learning goals. Well, Suzuki method is different. First of all, it’s NOT easy. It is easy for the children, who learn having fun and using their natural abilities. But it’s NOT easy for the parents. You’ll have to take part at every lesson. You’ll have to learn music too. You’ll have to be there together with you children. With your whole self, with your mind and your heart. You won’t take and bring your child back, but you’ll spend hours, days, months and years WITH him. Learning with him, playing with him, having fun with him and growing up with him. Your life will change forever. It won’t literally be the same again. It’s better you know it from the start. Because Suzuki method is a method for growing up with an instrument and THANKS TO it. It’s an educational method, and it’ll give you and your child something which you will never forget and which will last forever. You will both become happier and better human beings and  througout a musical instrument.  In my opinion, that’s no small thing.

In the Suzuki method’s leaflet, you have read these courses are for very young children. Aged 3, 4 and sometimes even 2 years old. All the other courses “say” it’s impossible to start playing before  7 or 8 years of age. Because a child would need high concentration and reading skills to learn an instrument. Well, this is not true. In the Thirties, a man called Shinichi Suzuki discovered that every child could learn to play an instrument very early.  Way before being able to read or write, with the Mother tongue method. Every child learns to speak his mother tongue from a very young age, being immersed in a certain linguistic environment, listening and imitating what he hears. Learning music could happen in the same way. Listening, imitating, repeating movements, gestures and sounds. By trial and error and with a parent or an adult’s prompt and support. Why so early then? Because, as a growing body of research proves, starting early is easier. Untill 3 years old every child has an incredible potential only waiting to be developed. Learning the correct posture and bow hold is much easier at 3 than it is at 7 or 8. Acquiring a beatiful ringing tone on an instrument is a natural thing for younger children. But it becomes harder and harder as the child gets older. Just like speaking a new language. Children up to 3 years old can acquire another language in a very brief span of time and without any accent. Learning an instrument at a very young age is also a natural and spontaneous thing and a great fun. Some people are critical towards this approach because they imagine a 3 years olded stuck in front at a music stand for hours and hours. On the contrary, in the Suzuki method each lesson is full of movements, enjoyable and varied. So no child is obliged to stay still reading a music sheet for hours. Instead he can have fun and express himself, only in a frame of discipline, self control and clear and appropriate –for-his-age rules.

Like I said before, what makes the Suzuki method unique is first of all parental involvement. This is not a “parking course”. Instead it’s an experience of sharing something very important with your child. A priceless opportunity of actually doing something WITH your child. Before it’ll be too late because he will be grown up. This will deepend and tighten you relationship and it’ll become a life changing experience both of you will never forget. But there is also a teaching reason for this requirement. A very young child hasn’t sufficient skills to make an independent home practice. He needs supervision, help and feedback from an adult. Home practice is essential to actually learn an instrument, but it has to be guided and supervised, especially at a young age, and sometimes even later. Independent practice will come with the time. Still it will be a gradual acquisition, not something a child will have from the start. That’s why this type of learning can take place only if a parent is involved in the whole process. Starting from each lesson and going on at home. Independence is something acquired and developed, not inborn. Moreover, the mother tongue method requires the creation of a “musical environment”. Which would be impossible to create without the involvement of the entire child’s life entourage.

To create a musical environment, we obviously need music. A crucial part of the Suzuki method is its repertoire, which becomes the child’s new language. A cd comes along with each Suzuki’s book, and the child has to listen to it as often as possibile. Just like a newborn who learns his mother tongue by listening to people who speak, a Suzuki child has to learn the repertoire by listening to the recording. It’s important to provide the child with as many opportunities as possibile to listen to it.

Another typical question parents ask themselves is “How can I understand if my child does want to play an instrument?”. In the Suzuki method’s view, this is a nonsense question. Choosing musical learning for your child should be, in fact, an educational choice. Playing an instrument is a gift for your child’s present and future life. It’s not just about “playing the violin”, it’s much more. Children who play an instrument become wonderful human beings with superior abilities. Thank to the violin they learn how to be patient, kind, happy and loving people. They acquire higher skills in language, reading, writing, mathemathics and logic. They can control themselves, wait for a result, reflect about things and help other children. They learn to fight fot their goals and to be not taken aback if they fail. They are capable of constance, determination and resilience. They are stronger and more self confident, in a positive way. Therefore this choice should be made by their parents who want to give them a spectacular and unforgettable life. Motivation should come from the parents and not (just) from the child. Asking a 3 years olded to make a so important choice is, moreover, dangerous and wrong. A very young child shouldn’t have a so heavy burden on his shoulder. But this is not all. Making an important choice and stuck to it is hard even for an adult. Think about how many times you applied to a course but you wanted to quit after few lessons. Perhaps you liked it, but it was not easy to carry it on each week. A day you wake up and you had some other things to do, or you were simply tired. Shouldn’t it be like this for a very young child? Motivation for any activity is never completely intrinsic and it rarely lasts for a very long time. It’s in the human nature to want to change, try other things or quit after a while. But if we allow our child to quit after few lessons, he won’t have learnt anything. Endurance, strength and motivation develop also thanks to moments of tiredness. Similarly, mistakes and failure are part of learning and they shouldn’t become an excuse to give up. There are many strategies to support children’s motivation, and you teacher will show you how to use them. Meanwhile, you as parents will have to teach your child how to love his instrument, music and home practice. This will be you biggest task.

When the students are ready to take part at group lessons, it’s hard for the parents to understand why they are so important. They are indeed an essential part of the method. Playing in a group helps to review the repertoire once more, in different ways, and it offers opportunities to listen to more advanced pieces. Peer tutoring is also very effective as it enhances motivation, self confidence and willingness to learn. Your child will find role models in his peers and he will learn how to cooperate, work in a team and help the others. Seeing older kids who are more advanced gives, to the pupil as well as to the parents, a clear picture of what will be their future musically speaking. That’s why taking part consistently at group lessons is vital for a Suzuki student.

Young children learn by watching, listening and imitating. Repetition is natural to them and it’s something they look for and love. They like doing the same things over and over again. Suzuki method, then, follows this natural predisposition every child has. Repetition and review can be enjoyable and fun. For the children more than for the parents! But your child will love to listen or play the same song once again, and he will learn better and better.

Your life could change forever.
That’s what could happen to you :
-        You’ll develop an obsession for the “Everybody down up” rhythm, and you’ll find yourself tapping and drumming it without even noticing. In each-  single - available - surface.
-        You’ll go to bed and wake up with the Twinkle melody in your head. And it’ll soon become your favourite song ever.
-        You’ll have to explain to your neighbours and friends that playing an instrument at 3 is not slavery,  but is the greatest gift you could have given to your child. And NO, your child is not a genius, because EVERY CHILD CAN LEARN.
-        You’ll be back to school. You’ll learn violin basics, posture, rhythms and notes.
-        You’ll find time yourself to practice with your child every day and everywhere, to support and catch his motivation.
-        You’ll spend lots of weekends away for concerts, masterclasses and music events.
-        Your whole family will be involved in the child’s musical experience.
I’ve warned you …. Still, if you feel ready to live the most involving and unforgettable experience of your and your child’s life …. Just open that door!!


lunedì 12 novembre 2018

"Music is joy" orchestra : when disability becomes an opinion

An old definition of disability, proposed by the World Health Organization in 1980, saw it as the consequence of an impairment. This impairment was considered like a physiological function’s abnormality, which led to an handicap.
This definition put the accent on what one couldn’t do. It stressed one’s limits and his deviation outside the norm, in a statistic sense.
Today, on the contrary, the accent is put on one’s abilities.  Stressing what a person can do, we can see his functioning areas and how the environment can affect this skills, both un a positive and in a negative way.
If someone will live in a favourable environment, though, he will be able to develop to his full potential. This way, his limits couldn’t be espressed and could not become an handicap.
My students are a clear example of this latter definition.

My lessons are open to everyone : very young children (aged 2-3 years old), school-aged children, teens, neurotypical children, disabled ones, gifted children, adhd students, autistic  pupils, blind, deaf students or kids with very rare genetic syndromes.

Alessia, today 20 years old, has deafness and Williams syndrome

I don’t want to make any selection of them, because I think talent is acquired and not inborn.
Everyone can develop it with a constant and daily work.
I select just the families.  I need motivated and determined parents who want to work restlessly with their child every day. This is my only condition.
In other words, I want to select the right environment. A supportive and positive environment will enable everyone to learn.
I’ve been teaching officially for almost 10 years (officially, because I actually had my first students 18 years ago!) and I have never encountered a child who was unable to learn. Never.
Each one could learn something with his unique skills and in his own way. But each one of my students  made progress and did learn something.

In my students’ orchestra differences are pretty important. Each child, in fact, has the freedom to express his personality, his ideas and his strengths. At the same time, it’s a context where you can’t see one’s limits and disabilities.
This group is composed of 25 children aged 3- 14 years old. The rules are the same for everyone, and they are proposed by the children and chosen by the whole group, included myself.
During the lesson, all the children have to  … speak with a low tone of voice, be kind toward the others and their instruments, listen to the teacher, be quiet when the others are playing or speaking. They have to help each other, enjoy the experience and have fun!
In this group each child is appreciated and valued as a member of the group and as a special and unique person. Each one skills and strengths are recognized and highlighted. I always have a positive, calm and encouraging attitude. I’m never cross or critical but I always use positive reinforcement, just like the children do.
For me it’s really important for each of them to feel understood and valued. Everyone can also give ideas or make proposals, even the youngest ones, and I always listen to them and value their ideas.

In my orchestra there are also some disabled students. Some of them have severe disabilities and disorders, but I don’t feel the need to explain these concepts to the other children. It’d put just an unecessary emphasis on some aspects none even notices.
During rehearsals, lessons and public events, these features don’t come out and children are just children. Each one of them is engaged at his fullest and gives his contribution. I expect not less than 100% from all of them, but this 100% may be different for each child. Each one has “its own” 100%. But I want from all of them attention, commitment, precision, a good posture, a clean sound, a correct bow hold, and a proper preparation. On this matter, you can’t see any difference between “neurotypical” and “disabled” children.
These children are a tight-knit and cohesive group. They often make friends in the group and some of them are literally growing up together. These relationships go beyond each one’s features, but they are also based on them.
When they ask me direct questions of this matter, I just say that anyone has strenghts and weaknesses, and we are all like this. None of us can do everything and each of us can’t do something. But everyone has strenghts and positive aspects. Everyone is wonderful as he is.  And everyone can learn.
This concepts can be understood even by the youngest child. And I don’t feel any need to go further, because for the children it’s unnecessary.

Another crucial aspect of my orchestra is independence’s development. Unluckily, being my studio really small, I can’t let the parents in during group lessons. They take part at every other lesson, but I just haven’t enough room to allow them to stay during the orchestra’s rehersals.
So I’m alone with 15-20 children and I physically can’t follow all of them. Because of that, since they are very young they learn how to look after themselves and the other children. They can take their jackets and shoes off (no shoes in my studio, as we work mainly on the carpet), prepare their instruments and bows and organize the whole room by themselves.
The older ones help the younger or disabled ones, because they are aware of our first rule. As members of a group, they should cooperate and help each other.

Being immersed in a quite and nice environment, they just ignore or don’t even notice inadequate behaviours. This way, attention seeking behaviours don’t get any reinforcement and they just stop after a while. Moreover, these behaviours are put in action not just by disabled children, but almost all the children engage in them. Because they are so young and they still have to learn how to behave, cooperate and work in a group. But they will. I work a lot on behaving well, listening, following rules, being socially competent and so on. I like also using routines like start and final greetings, Twinkle variations to start the lesson, and lots of similar clues.

Also some students who work with me in my 2nd studio take part at the orchestra’s concerts and events.
Sara and Claid, for example, both autistic pupils, have been playing a very important role in the group for some years :

In conclusion, these children are so lucky to live a great life experience. Playing in this group is and educational, formative and enriching experience. Through their violin, they are growing up and they learn while enjoying themselves.
I’m well aware of asking much to them and their families. Still, when I see them smiling and being happy and proud of themselves, I know I’m on the right track. And I know their efforts and sacrifices will be repaid.

 And I’m sure they will remember these moments forever.

Music and autism : why should music be a therapy?

When I read articles and leaflets about activities for disabled people, I feel amazed these proposals are often "different" from the ones for "non disabled" people.

These differences lie not only in their contents, but also in their names. Swimming becomes "idrotherapy", sport is "sail boat therapy", "inclusive basket" or " together football" .... art is "drawing therapy" and music becomes " healing sound", " magic notes", " relational music" and so on...

The idea in itself it's not so bad. But I don't like how those activities are realized, and I disagree with their aims. I don't agree with considering all these activities as therapies, just because their are for disabled people. In my opinion, this is a wrong and dangerous view.  Because it gives a wrong idea of a disabled person, and it leads to " miracle thinking". It should be instead more useful to concentrate on concrete aims, real therapies and real life learning tasks. Without relying on some "miraculus" event who can "cure" important disorders just by listening to some music or drawing a paint.

Moreover, I think changing these activities' names is unnecessary. It'd be better just to adapt our teaching approach to whoever we have in front of us. Wether this person had a disability or not.

Each of us is a unique and original human being. To be an effective teacher we have to consider that point. We just have to understand what makes this person unique and what are her features.

If we could see a disability just like a cluster of traits, without being judgmental or afraid of them, we would do a great favour for a lots of people. And also for ourselves, because we could be more relaxed and confident while working with them.

When I look at Pietro, I just see a 4 years olded student, not a disabled child

"Differentiated" proposals are useless. We shouldn't think "normal" activities are not accessible to disabled students, because this is not true.

What makes the difference is the teaching approach, not contents or names.

If we choose to call theatre " expressive therapy" or chamber music " orchestral involvement", we don't make them easier. On the contrary, we just underline the differences between those who can learn, play, develop and those who can't.

It were like some people could have access to "real" activities and some others could just have a "surrogate" of them.

Not every child who starts a music, theatre or sport course will become a professional. But this souldn't be our goal anyway. Every child can, instead, reach a beginner level in music, sport or art.

It all depends on the teacher. Limits are never in the child, because every child can learn.

We should just know how to teach them, without thinking "this child can't learn" just because he has some issues. Or "I'm doing therapy" because everything related to disablity "must be" therapy.

Sara is autistic, but she is  first of all a violin and piano student

Some professionals want, anyway, their work to "be" therapeutic. They can prove how much their "patients" are improved, and they are sure this improvement depends on their intervention.

In some articles on music therapy I read "this child demonstrated a better emotional tuning because he pressed the piano's keys while the therapist was playing"

Well, in my view this is exactly what it seems : a child who's casually pressing some keys, without any awarness or ability to choose. Just like any other kid would have done in front of a piano.

There's no learning and no relation in this scene. This is not a relational behaviour, but it may be at best a turn taking behaviour, which is way easier than that claimed "relationship" skill.

I've also read that " When working with less affected patients (this is really what it reads!! Affected!) with autism, words are not needed. My whole communication with an Asperger boy consisted of singing. If I stopped singing, he went away and lost all his interest in me"

A casual reader may think : "That's great!" . Too bad that an Asperger child can perfectly speak in a correct and functional way, and it's terribly wrong to let him behaving like he couldn't.

Because this is a skill he certainly has, and we should at least help him to develop and use it with a specific and serious training. Not by singing.

In another article I read : " The worst thing a teacher can do with an autistic student, is to make him wait while the other are playing".

Yes, waiting it just for "normal" children, why should a disabled child learn to wait???
He's disabled, he's excused! He cannot learn.

Can you see the discrimination thought behind this sentence??

Finally, all the emphasis music therapy puts on freedom and "improvisation" like an instrument to express and encourage a relationship between the child and the therapist. This can be really dangerous and can lead to serious problems for an autistic person.

A music therapist writes : " Using an improvisative musical game, we find ourselves in a place where there aren't any rules and we can discover the unpredictable. In those moments, our patient will express himself with a look, a sound or a movement. And we'll see he'll be present. He won't be able to hide his love for music and his terrible need of something powerful but invisible that music is."

First of all, in this quote I see a lot of stereotypical thinking : why an autistic child shouldn't be "present"? Why shouldn't he love music?? 

Second, nothing can be more confusive and scary for an autistic child than a non-structured and an unpredictable environment.

The absence of rules and of a schedule can put an autistic person in a state of fear and anxiety. And it increases the probability of having melt downs, anxiety,  escape or aggressive behaviours.

Claid is a great (autistic) student, but he needs to have clear rules and a fixed schedule to work properly

Other music therapists say music is the best "communication" tool for disabled children. But a child can't express himself through music if ha can't play an instrument. It'd be just like speaking without words. It'd be a confused and uncomprehensible communication. It'd be a completely casual communication, just like improvisation without knowing any note is. Pressing piano keys or plucking a guitar's strings without any knowledge about it , it's just confusion and playing like with a toy.

In my opinion, this is not true self expression because it doesn't express anything and it's not a communication tool for a child.

A non verbal child, in fact, can surely communicate, but can't express himself completely, because he lacks means to do it. That's why we use signs, symbols and when it's possible words. Or even notes, but after a child has learnt how to "use" them.

I think the most important concept of all this talk is our view of a disabled person. If we see am autistic child like a "special" human being, who's different from us and who lives in a " world apart", then we want to be "magic" and help him "going out" that "bubble" he lives in. 

In this view, we need some "magic" tool which helps us to enter his world, to connect with him in a sublte and subconscoius way. The most important goal it is then the "emotional tuning" with him, that incredible "healing relationship" between us.

BUT  if we see an autistic child as he really is .... A CHILD, 

and we understand he needs tools and ways to a part of OUR world, which is also HIS world (becausen there is no "other" world!)...

We will then understand is unnecessary to find some imaginative and creative solutions just for this child.

We could just make what all the others do accessible also for them.

This way, he'll be allowed to live in the real world along with the other people.

domenica 11 novembre 2018

Corso Suzuki A Coruna : I miei allievi partono per la Spagna!!

Mercoledì 31 Ottobre, tre miei allievi con le loro famiglie sono partiti per la Spagna, per partecipare ad una masterclass Suzuki con Koen Rens, straordinario insegnante belga.

Ormai siamo internazionali! Dopo le trasferte sul Lago Maggiore, a Parma,  Cremona, Milano, Faenza ... eccoci alla conquista dell'Europa 😆😎.

Ho scritto  " i miei allievi sono partiti" , perchè io non c'ero ..... da due settimane, infatti, sono costretta a letto con la polmonite, ed ho dovuto saltare ben due viaggi di lavoro, in Spagna ed in UK. Non vi dico la delusione ed il dispiacere di non poter essere con loro ....

Ma per fortuna, essendo la famiglie dei miei bambini straordinarie, in pratica è stato come se ci fossi stata, perchè mi hanno tenuta aggiornata in tempo reale su tutto ciò che facevano i bambini, con video, fotografie e telefonate.

Il mare di La Coruna, fotografia di Giovanni

Gli allievi iscritti erano Francesca, 5 anni; Giovanni, 7 anni e Samuele, 8 anni, tutti al Volume 1. Francesca, che suona da poco più di un anno, era tra i più piccoli del suo gruppo, infatti suonava già fino a Moto perpetuo.

Il primo giorno è stato di vacanza: i bambini hanno sono stati al mare, hanno girato per la città, giocato nel parco giochi adiacente la scuola, e visitato acquario e Museo della Scienza.

Insieme a Giovanni c'era anche suo fratello Pietro, 3 anni e mezzo, anche lui mio allievo, che frequenta il corso CML1.

Pietro e Giovanni al Museo della Scienza

Una bella passeggiata serale!

Il giorno successivo, è iniziato il corso.

I miei allievi erano gli unici italiani e gli unici stranieri del corso, eppure si sono subito ambientati benissimo, ed addirittura Francesca, essendo madrelingua spagnola, parlava senza difficoltà in una lingua che in Italia non utilizza mai!

Riguardo a questo, mi vengono due considerazioni : intanto, le potenzialità dei bambini sono davvero straordinarie, e non vanno sottovalutate. Poi, io ho vari allievi bi ed anche tri-lingui, e per loro la musica diventa da subito un'altra lingua da imparare, dunque questi bambini riescono a gestire anche 3-4 lingue contemporaneamente, di cui una è proprio la musica!

Samuele, rispetto ad altre esperienze di concorsi, concerti ecc, era molto più a suo agio e sicuro , come ho potuto vedere nei video delle lezioni e del concerto finale.

E Giovanni si è subito distinto per l'entusiasmo e la passione, davvero rari per la mia esperienza, mostrando una grandissima voglia di suonare il più possibile, ascoltare gli allievi più avanzati ed imparare pezzi nuovi.

Koen Rens è un insegnante eccezionale, preparato, appassionato, comunicativo, carismatico e coinvolgente. In due giorni è riuscito ad ottenere risultati incredibili da bambini che non avevano mai suonato insieme, ed i miei allievi sono rimasti folgorati da lui e si sono divertiti tantissimo!!

Giovanni si è addirittura "infiltrato" in alcuni gruppi di livello più avanzato del suo, e, pur essendo arrivato al primo Minuetto del Volume 1, ha fatto lezione con gli allievi che suonavano fino al Minuetto 3, ed addirittura anche con quelli del Volume 2!

Ed è riuscito ad imparare in soli due giorni pezzi mai sentiti prima, tra cui il Coro dei Cacciatori di Weber.


Tutti e tre i bambini, che ho sentito anche per telefono, erano motivati, felicissimi e carichi di energia e voglia di fare.

Merito di un insegnante davvero unico che è riuscito a valorizzare ognuno di loro, pur lavorando sempre in gruppo, tirando fuori il meglio da ogni bambino.

Gentilissimo verso i miei bambini, li ha anche ascoltati individualmente prima di una lezione, dando loro alcuni consigli molto utili.

Il sabato si è tenuto il concerto finale nella chiesa della città, e vi assicuro che anche da lontano è stato davvero emozionante!!

Francesca ha suonato tutti i brani del volume 1 fino a Moto Perpetuo, mentre Koen ha deciso di far suonare in concerto sia a Giovanni sia a Samuele i brani imparati nei due giorni precedenti!

Quindi Giovanni ha suonato Minuetto 3 e Cacciatori, e Samuele il Minuetto in sol maggiore.

Inutile dire che i bambini erano orgogliosissimi di questi risultati!!

Ecco il meraviglioso concerto finale del corso :

Minuetto n.3

Moto perpetuo



Il livello era veramente alto e tutti i bambini suonavano benissimo!!

Ed ecco i miei piccoli violinisti con l'insegnante al termine del concerto :

Credo che esperienze come questa abbiano un valore inestimabile per allievi anche molto piccoli : il viaggio in aereo tutti insieme, vedere posti nuovi, conoscere bambini spesso provenienti da tutto il mondo, fare lezione con un nuovo insegnante, suonare in gruppo, lavorare in modo intensivo per più giorni, esibirsi al concerto finale ...

Sono esperienze che rimarranno dentro di loro per sempre. 

Infatti ne faremo senza dubbio altre, e le prossime volte io non mancherò!

Ma la passione dei miei allievi è tanta che non hanno smesso di suonare neppure durante il viaggio di ritorno... Giovanni, infatti, ha tenuto un "concerto" all'aeroporto di Madrid, eseguendo tutto il suo repertorio.

Vorrei ringraziare tantissimo Koen Rens, che spero di incontrare al più presto, e l'organizzatrice del corso, Beatriz Junco Pinero, che è stata disponibile e gentilissima con me dal momento dell'iscrizione in poi, nonostante poi non ci siamo conosciute di persona.

Grazie davvero, alla prossima!

domenica 21 ottobre 2018

Orchestra Musica è Gioia : quando la disabilità diventa un punto di vista

Una definizione ormai superata di disabilità, proposta dall'Organizzazione Mondiale della Sanità nel 1980, proponeva di considerarla la conseguenza di una menomazione, intesa come anormalità di una funzione fisiologica, che portava ad uno svantaggio sociale riguardo a ciò che la persona era in grado di fare, detto handicap.

L'accento, quindi, era posto su ciò che la persona non era in grado di fare, sulle sue difficoltà e sulla deviazione dalla norma (uso questo termine in senso statistico).

Oggi, invece, vengono sottolineate le capacità della persona, le sue aree di funzionamento, ed il fatto che fattori personali ed ambientali possano facilitare o meno l'espressione di tali potenzialità.

Se l'ambiente è favorevole e facilitante, dunque, la persona potrà sviluppare al massimo i suoi punti di forza, e di conseguenza le sue difficoltà potrebbero anche non esprimersi e non essere evidenti nè invalidanti.

I miei allievi, ed in particolare l'Orchestra Musica è Gioia, sono un esempio di questa seconda classificazione.

Ai miei corsi partecipano bambini con tutte le caratteristiche personali possibili : piccolissimi (2-3 anni), un po' più grandi, pre-adolescenti o adolescenti, neurotipici, con capacità nella norma, con capacità superiori alla norma, con difficoltà di comportamento, di attenzione e concentrazione, con un ritardo cognitivo, verbale o un ritardo mentale ... bambini con disabilità fisica, sensoriale, autistici o con sindromi genetiche "comuni" (es. sindrome di Down) o rare, talvolta anche rarissime.

Alessia (sindrome di Williams) oggi ha 20 anni e studia con me da quasi 9 anni!

Convinta che il talento non sia innato ma si possa costruire con un lavoro quotidiano e costante, non faccio nessuna selezione all'inizio, se non scegliendo famiglie che abbiano voglia di impegnarsi, mettersi in gioco e lavorare con i propri figli. Questo e l'unico requisito.

In altre parole, seleziono da subito un ambiente favorevole, ciò che fa davvero la differenza tra un percorso di apprendimento di successo ed uno fallimentare. Un bambino posto in un contesto supportante, stimolante e facilitante, infatti, imparerà SEMPRE, indipendentemente dalle sue caratteristiche di partenza.

Insegno da quasi 10 anni (ufficialmente ... perchè in realtà ho avuto i primi allievi ben 18 anni fa!) e non ho mai , e dico mai, incontrato un bambino che non fosse in grado di apprendere. Ognuno secondo i suoi tempi e le sue modalità, ognuno in un modo diverso, ma tutti hanno sempre imparato qualcosa.

Arianna e Pietro, piccoli con disabilità complesse, quest'anno hanno imparato a tenere il violino da soli!
L'orchestra dei miei allievi, inoltre, è veramente un contesto in cui le differenze sono molto importanti, nel senso che ognuno è libero di essere sè stesso ed esprimere i propri punti di forza e la propria personalità, ma in cui disabilità e difficoltà non si percepiscono.

In questo gruppo suonano 25 bambini tra i 3 ed i 14 anni, ed alcuni di loro fanno lezione nel mio studio a Voghera, mentre gli altri si aggiungono in occasione di eventi pubblici e concerti.

Tutti i partecipanti all'orchestra seguono le stesse regole, concordate insieme ed in larga parte proposte da loro : a lezione si parla a bassa voce, si trattano con gentilezza gli altri e gli strumenti, si ascolta l'insegnante, si sta in silenzio quando gli altri suonano, si gioca e ci si diverte, ci si aiuta e si collabora.

Nel gruppo ogni bambino viene accolto e valorizzato per quello che è, per i suoi lati positivi e le sue capacità, che vengono sempre sviluppate e messe in evidenza, con un atteggiamento tranquillo ed una comunicazione positiva, mai critica o punitiva, nè da parte mia nè da parte degli altri bambini.

Per me è molto importante che ognuno si senta ascoltato, valorizzato e compreso, e possa esprimere le sue opinioni e fare proposte riguardo agli esercizi da svolgere o ai brani da eseguire. Anche i più piccoli hanno idee ed opinioni degne di nota e vanno ascoltati e tenuti in considerazione.

Nell'orchestra suonano anche allievi disabili, spesso con difficoltà anche gravi, o con disturbi dell'attenzione e del comportamento, ma personalmente non ho mai sentito il bisogno di spiegarlo agli altri bambini o di sottolinearlo in qualche modo : sarebbe soltanto un modo per evidenziare aspetti che in orchestra non contano e non entrano in gioco praticamente mai.

Sì, perchè durante le lezioni ed i concerti tali difficoltà non si notano e non vengono espresse, ogni bambino dà il suo contributo come riesce (anche se, da professionista, prentendo sempre il 100% da tutti, quindi impostazione corretta, intonazione, precisione e preparazione), e, veramente, le differenze intese come difficoltà non si vedono.

I bambini dell'Orchestra Musica è Gioia formano un gruppo affiatato e coeso, nel quale molto spesso nascono amicizie durature ed importanti, al di là delle caratteristiche, anzi, grazie alle caratteristiche di ognuno. L'unico argomento che affronto, se e quando viene posto da loro, è relativo al fatto che ognuno ha aree in cui è competente e capace ed altre in cui ha difficoltà, e che tutti siamo fatti così. Nessuno è capace di fare tutto, ed ognuno di noi fa fatica in qualcosa, ma ciò non vuol dire che ci siano persone che non hanno punti di forza o persone incapaci di apprendere e fare progressi.

Questo è un discorso che affronto anche con i bambini di 3 anni, ma non sento il bisogno di spiegare altro, perchè con i bambini non è necessario.

Un altro aspetto fondamentale dell'esperienza dei miei allievi in orchestra è lo sviluppo dell'indipendenza : essendo da sola con 15-20 bambini (il mio studio è troppo piccolo per ospitare i genitori anche durante le lezioni di orchestra), non potrei neanche volendo occuparmi fisicamente delle necessità di ognuno. 
Pertanto, i bambini imparano fin da subito ad essere autonomi ed a svolgere molte attività da soli : appena entrati in aula si svestono, tolgono le scarpe- infatti lavoriamo in gran parte sul tappeto-, preparano gli strumenti, e vengono nell'aula di lezione con il violino già pronto.

I nuovi o i piccoli, che non sono ancora del tutto autonomi, o gli allievi con difficoltà vengono aiutati dagli altri, che conoscono infatti la regola fondamentale del gruppo : ci si aiuta e si collabora.

Tendenzialmente, i più grandi aiutano i piccoli, spesso senza neppure che sia io a richiederlo, ma tutti si aiutano tra di loro.

Essendoci un clima sereno e disteso, per creare il quale io mantengo un atteggiamento calmo e parlo quasi sempre a bassa voce, tranne quando devo sottolineare alcuni concetti, anche eventuali comportamenti inadeguati o differenti dai soliti vengono considerati nella norma e molto spesso ignorati dal gruppo. In questo modo, eventuali comportamenti tesi a ricercare attenzione con modalità non corrette non ricevono nessun tipo di rinforzo, anzi si estinguono da soli e dopo un po' cessano.

Tali comportamenti, tra l'altro, non vengono messi in atto solo dai bambini con difficoltà, ma, un po' a turno, da tutti, perchè i bambini sono in gran parte ancora piccoli e devono spesso ancora imparare ad autocontrollarsi e relazionarsi in modo efficace in un gruppo grande ed eterogeneo.

Ma uno degli obiettivi dell'orchestra è anche quello di imparare a relazionarsi e socializzare con competenza, ascoltandosi a vicenda e seguendo le regole, dunque durante tutti gli incontri lavoro molto sul rinforzo della collaborazione e sulle regole di comportamento, che spesso passano anche attraverso la creazione di routine, quali il saluto iniziale e finale, l'inchino, l'inizio con l'esecuzione di una variazione di Bella Stella ecc..

L'arco in testa significa SILENZIO!

Come dicevo prima, anche i miei allievi di Milano partecipano agli eventi dell'orchestra, con alcune prove ad hoc nei giorni precedenti concerti e concorsi.

Durante la settimana, loro studiano con me preparando sia il repertorio individuale sia quello collettivo, e quando entrano a far parte del gruppo al completo sono già pronti e desiderosi di suonare con gli altri.

Sara e Claid, entrambi allievi autistici, sono ormai "veterani" dell'orchestra, e da anni danno un importantissimo contributo al gruppo con impegno, precisione e musicalità.

Claid suona Bach Minuetto 1 :

Sara a lezione :

Anche le "nuove leve" di quest'anno si sono inserite molto bene nel gruppo. Maria, ad esempio, allieva molto brillante con la sindrome di Down, lavora benissimo in orchestra e studia a casa i pezzi con grande attenzione :

Insomma, questi bambini stanno vivendo un'esperienza educativa, formativa ed arricchente, che dà qualcosa ad ognuno di loro ed, attraverso la musica, li fa divertire imparando.

So di chiedere molto a loro, ma, soprattutto alle loro famiglie, ma il sorriso e l'entusiasmo che dimostrano quando sono insieme ripagano tutti di ogni sforzo e sacrificio.

E sono sicura che ognuno di loro ricorderà per sempre questi momenti.