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The United Sound Method for Private Lesson Teachers

Private lessons teachers can apply United Sound techniques to promote inclusion in their programs by having student leaders act as peer mentors to special needs music students.

Inclusion is at the heart of United Sound, a peer mentoring program that provides musical performance experiences for students with special needs (called New Musicians).

The United Sound method was created for use in a school setting, but the same training can be used by private lesson teachers.

Below are training videos that showcase United Sound’s program and resources.

Please note: These videos were created for students participating in United Sound programs in public schools around the country. We hope that the concepts will help shed light on working with students with special needs, but we acknowledge that private teachers’ experiences might vary greatly.

The United Sound Program

In this program overview, you’ll see the relationship between Peer Mentor Abby and New Musician Jessica develop and grow during the school year.

If you’d like to reflect on your own teaching while watching the video, download this worksheet. United Sound suggests thinking about the key themes of “Empower,” “Communicate” and “Modify” as it applies to each clip.

Parents’ Perspectives

Parents of New Musicians express how United Sound has positively affected their children in this video.

Teachers may find it helpful to reflect on:

  • What moment in the video did you find particularly interesting or surprising?
  • Have you had experiences with parents that were negative? How could these interactions be different with different instruction?

Curriculum and Teaching

In this video, United Sound founder Julie Duty explains how to utilize the United Sound methodology to create an inclusive environment for New Musicians, Peer Mentors and all band students.

While watching the video, reflect on how you might implement some of United Sound’s methodology in your teaching. You may find it helpful to download this worksheet to help you dig deeper on the key themes of EMPOWER, COMMUNICATE and MODIFY during the video’s pause-for discussion sections.

  • Pause #1: Which elements of Empower, Communicate and Modify did you see in these two classrooms? Do you think this type of celebration is more about Communication or Empowerment?
  • Pause #2: Think about your private lesson environment. What is one change that you could make to create a “no-fail” environment for your students?
  • Pause #3: What did you see that was positive in the student’s teaching? What could he have done better?
  • Pause #4: Do you think it’s appropriate to include “down time” in a private lesson? Could intentionally off-task moments increase the productivity of the rest (say, 25 minutes) of your lesson time? Beyond “chatting” about your day, what is one idea that you could add to your lessons to enhance the environment for a student with special needs?
  • Pause #5: Do you have students who struggle with traditional notation? Would you be willing to modify notation for them?
  • Using a single word or phrase, what is your biggest takeaway from this video?

United Sound Font Tutorial

This video shows you how to install and use the United Sound font from Finale (filmed during the ABLE Assembly at Berklee College of Music in April 2019).

You can download the Finale font here. You can download Finale font flashcards here.

Now, you’re ready to use the Finale font to write music in modified “food” notation. Good luck!

Sound Off for United Sound

Parents, students, teachers and administrators strongly endorse the United Sound program.

  • “United Sound has provided a new and powerful way for our daughter to communicate and given her more confidence when she does.” — a parent
  • “The campus-wide benefits we have received from this program are immeasurable. It’s a win, win, win for everyone involved!” — a principal
  • This experience has reinforced to me the amazing power of music to reach a child in ways that classroom learning cannot. Our New Musicians and Peer Mentors have all grown as musicians, but more importantly, they have grown as humans, forging a common bond through the creation of art and beauty.” — an orchestra director
  • “United Sound’s real purpose is to create lasting friendships.” — a student

If you would like to learn more about United Sound or if you are interested in setting up a program at your school, visit the United Sound website.

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