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Upcoming fundraiser will help Parker program

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
February 14, 2011
— Band teacher John Biester sat at a computer monitor last week, searching YouTube for pop songs.

"Zach, what song do you want to hear?" Biester said.


"Well, I like country," Zach Schoonover responded.


"I know, but what song?"


"Well, I like Brooks & Dunn," the smiling Parker High School student replied.


"OK, Brooks & Dunn."


"My Maria" was soon pumping from the speakers as the video lighted up a SmartBoard in front of a group of seven students gathered around a table.


They pounded percussion instruments, shook a tambourine and rang bells. Sometimes, they even danced.


Zach did a mean air guitar.


This is the "adaptive music" course at Parker High School for kids with a wide range of disabilities.


A concert at Parker on Friday, Feb. 18, will provide money to give the kids more ways to express their musical selves.


A few of the students are so profoundly handicapped that they can participate only from their beds. One activated a string of lights encased in plastic.


He does it by pressing his chin to a pad. Some are in wheelchairs.


Their disabilities come with labels, including cerebral palsy, cognitive disabilities and autism, but those are not words used in music class.


Several students don't talk, or use only a few words. Others are chatty. Most seemed to love their music class. One said he'd rather be in tech ed, building things.


This is Zach's favorite class "because I like the music, and I get to hop around."


The fun is good for the students, said first-year special-ed teacher Dana Schoemer, who co-teaches the class with Biester. It's kind of a group musical-therapy session.


"Sensory input is huge. Music allows them to think in a different way," Schoemer said.


Some of the kids have no other way to express their emotions, she added.


For a few, Schoemer said, indicating a boy on a bed, this "sensory input" is all they have.


Several students grinned from ear to ear. They joked and laughed.


"You're a jolly group today, holy moly," Biester says.


An aide held a boy's hand around the handle of a maraca, shaking it for him.


He smiled.


Biester said some of the kids can't use the mostly percussive instruments, but computer technology might get them more involved.


Schoemer said concert proceeds could buy interactive software for the SmartBoard. She also is looking at an expensive set of tone chimes and maybe a couple of iPods with speakers and special software.


Music has enriched Schoemer's life. She joined a women's a cappella group called greenTONE while at UW-Madison. GreenTONE will perform Friday as one of the opening acts before the Wisconsin Singers take the stage.


Zach and couple of his classmates will perform, as well, together with the Parker band's drum line.


IF YOU GO
What: A performance by the Wisconsin Singers, who advertise their "Broadway caliber entertainment" and are known as UW-Madison's goodwill ambassadors. Also, two opening acts: The Parker Band drum line and the greenTONE a cappella group from Madison.
When: 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 18.
Where: Parker High School auditorium, 3125 Mineral Point Ave., Janesville.
Tickets: Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students/seniors or $17/$12 the day of the show. Available by calling (608) 886-6801 or by visiting wisconsinsingers.com/janesville.

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