(This is Part 2 of a two-part report. Read the full piece here.)
On the surface, the PS 177 Technology Band looks like a typical high school orchestra. But there are two big differences. First, while they use traditional instruments, they also play iPads. And all of the band members have disabilities. Some have autism spectrum disorders.
“I’m Tobi Lakes. I’m 15 years old. I’m in ninth grade. I’m four grades away from college.”
Morning sunlight pushes through large, old windows into the school’s well-worn and empty-seated auditorium. On the stage, iPads on small stands sit in a semicircle. It’s rehearsal time. The students mingle and chat before practice starts. Tobi, a tall, wire-thin teen with thick glasses, sits at an electric piano. He taught himself to play.
“I’m very good. I like the piano. I like the keyboard. Keyboard is the best. Number one!” Tobi says with a wide smile. On his school-issued tablet computer, using a music app called Thumb Jam, Tobi also loves his iPad “guitar.”
Adam Goldberg is the music teacher at PS 177 and the director of the band. “They’re just learning how to be free and expressing themselves that way freely. Instead of being afraid, ‘Oh, that isn’t going to sound good.’ ”
Leslie Schect is director of technology for New York City’s Department of Education: “It really opens doors. At times we don’t often know what’s really inside because they’re not speaking. This helps give them the voice. There’s much more to these children than we realize.”