Students make music to make your day

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Students make music to make your day

Jack Benbow

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Jingles and melodies can be heard from the music room where junior Jake Blum plays the piano, guitarists Aidan Reese and Charlie Moore strum their chords and fellow musicians Jack O’Shaughnessy and Justin Langs clang down on the tambourine and cowbell. The Music Makes Your Day Club jams out every Tuesday at lunch with their fellow musicians—the special education department.

The club specializes in playing a variety of genres ranging from blues to jazz to some old rock songs, although it is clear that they do not confine themselves within traditional boundaries, as they often play whatever they feel in the mood for.

The club and non-profit was started by junior and musician Will Lester, who established the idea of playing music with Redwood’s special education students two years ago during an outing with his family.

“My aunt was talking to me and she always mentioned how much she loved listening to my music. She suggested, ‘Why don’t you go around and play music to people at retirement homes?’ And I thought that was a great idea, not just for me to make people happy, but for me to get better at performing,” Lester said.

He looked for people willing to go out and perform with him, but it ended up being a short-lived gig, as the idea of an entirely off-campus club seemed to deter most students. This was when he decided to switch his focus from retirement homes to introducing the special education students at Redwood to playing and participating in the creation of music.

The idea blossomed into a “band-like feeling” as the combination of music students and special education students quickly created a fun, light-hearted atmosphere where participants are able to just play whatever they feel.

The club prioritizes making their special needs partners feel comfortable at all times because the club is entirely focused on their enjoyment. Every person, no matter their capabilities, has a role to play in the making of their songs. Whether that be singing on stage, strumming a guitar, playing the drums, the piano or even simply ringing a bell, each aspect is equally integrated and important.

AJ Allen, one of the lead singers, and Freddie Mika, one of the main guitarists, are both in the special education department and instantly fell in love with playing music in the club. Neither had ever tried to play an instrument prior to the creation of the club, however, they became an instant hit after getting on stage.

Lester explained how, after their first meeting, special education teacher Katie Peters approached him and explained how shocked she was to see the kids having so much fun with the music. Lester and other band members felt a similar sentiment after their very first session this year.

Peppers explained to Lester that she had never seen AJ sing before, and was marveled that he could.

“The fact that music was able to help him come out of his shell in such a dramatic way, not just from a speaking and singing standpoint, but from a confidence standpoint, that’s the goal: to just make these kids happy,” Lester said.

This value is similarly shared by other members of the club such as Blum, who is one of the founding members in addition to his concurrent role as the treasurer. Club leaders are currently looking to expand their influences across the district into other schools such as Tamalpais High School and Sir Francis Drake High School. When reaching out, the club focuses on explaining how much of an impact it has had on their special-ed students and how it can affect and improve their environment at school.

“We just try to show how happy it’s making the special needs kids at our school and how much it can just help morale. What we’re doing is a great thing that should be spread to other aspects of our community,” Blum said.

Although they have yet to establish another location for their club, they plan on spreading to many other aspects of the local community such as creating an end of the year concert so they can showcase their hard work. Although the concert may be a “long shot” as the end of the year quickly approaches, they have still been able to change people’s minds over what it means to be a special education student.

Junior Jack O’Shaughnessy explained how the club has completely changed the way he thinks about and views his fellow students.

“I now see that [the special-ed students] are not mentally limited, but rather just need a little extra something to bring themselves out. Music has completely done that. I now view [them] as just people. They are extremely happy and just enjoy playing music, every day, no matter what the circumstance is,” O’Shaughnessy said.

If they are successful in expanding their club, they will move toward providing the community with a greater understanding and relationship with those who have mental challenges. However, in the meantime, they will continue to focus on improving their music.

Club musicians have begun to devise ways to enhance the sounds of instruments that many special-ed students work with, like using tuning variations, so they will add onto their songs and jam sessions without needing to provide complex lessons.

“We’ll do anything to just make the kids happy, they always join in and have fun, some of them are even learning to play their own instruments. It’s just always a good time to hang out sometime with kids who usually don’t get to play music, and to just make them a little bit happier makes me a little happier every day,” Blum said.