Sunday, April 13, 2008

Adaptive music plays the right tune

FLAME, a much-requested musical group in upstate NY;
all the band's members have disabilities.

The Disabled Dealer magazine did an interesting story about adaptive music in its April issue. The magazine, which focuses on new and pre-owned adaptive equipment and vehicles, doesn't put its articles online, but it listed a number of resources about adaptive music and musicians with disabilities.

The band pictured above, FLAME, from upstate New York, brings together a musical group of people with developmental/physical disabilities, including autism, Down’s syndrome and blindness. The band grew from a recreation program at the Lexington Center, Fulton County ARC and now has two CDs and a full tour schedule.

Tony Melendez is probably the most famous musician to play a guitar with his feet. (Guitars are apparently the most difficult musical instrument to adapt.) Melendez was born without arms because his mother was given thalidomide when she was pregnant with him.

Melendez began playing music as a child, playing a push-button organ. In high school he learned guitar and started writing his own songs. Devoutly Catholic, Melendez wanted to become a priest but couldn't because priests must have an index finger and thumb.

Instead, he became a guitarist and composer for masses and church-related events. In 1987, he performed for Pope John Paul II, when he visited the USA. He currently lives in Branson, Mo., with his wife and kids and has his own record label and has produced several albums of Christian music he's composed.

Another important group related to adaptive music is the Coalition for Disabled Musicians, which "introduces disabled musicians to each other who have an understanding of disability-related problems; gives access to an accessible rehearsal and recording studio; creates 'tag-team' systems and other adaptive techniques for pain, endurance, and other limitations; sets up studio and stage bands for amateurs and professionals; holds live performances, produce recordings, and hold music workshops and seminars; promotes public awareness of the disabled community as a great reservoir of talent and ability."

Other resources for adaptive music or musicians with disabilities are: