David Meyers found his passion for teaching music to children with disabilities quite accidentally. Having spent most of his career in real estate, music was relegated to a side pursuit that he relished when afforded the time. In 2008, however, that all changed when he began teaching a youth music program at New York’s Patterson Recreation Center. Playing and writing music moved to the forefront of his focus as his career took an unanticipated turn.
A New Beat
As Meyers became acquainted with the learning style of today’s children, he saw that to resonate with his audience, he would need to devise his own curriculum. He explains, “I quickly found that kids no longer absorb music in the same way as when I was a student. Modern music is heavily electronic and lyrics are oftentimes not age appropriate.” As a result, Meyer’s unique “RockOnMusicSchool” technique was born. He created original music and developed a learning method that began with simple lyrics, accompanied by the most basic guitar string work that gradually advanced to intricate songs with chords requiring increasingly complex finger work.
Serving the Underserved
In teaching, Meyers found a renewed sense of gratification, saying, “It’s the first job I’ve had that isn’t just about the dollar and that is so personally fulfilling.” The role soon became even more meaningful when a friend approached him to give lessons to his son who has autism. Meyers adapted his mainstream curriculum and within a few months saw his new student develop confidence through music. That experience shaped Meyers’ music school. He says, “I made a personal commitment to cater to this audience. These children have a tremendous need for recreational opportunities and are such an underserved community. Music provides them with a creative and social outlet, while building self-esteem, fine motor and language skills.”
Meyers now teaches music lessons through organizations such as SPARC (Special Programs and Resources Connections) of Westchester County as well as through his RockOnMusicSchool, providing one-on-one sessions at students’ homes. “Conducting lessons in a child’s home is so beneficial to those with physical disabilities that may make it challenging to get out or those who thrive within the comforts of their own environment,” Meyers says. Lessons are fine-tuned based on each child’s unique abilities. As Meyers points out, “Depending on the child’s circumstances, we might select strings, drums or keyboard.” He also modifies lessons by focusing on specific skills such as developing eye contact, sounds or social cues. To engage the kids, he often writes “silly, personalized songs” to get them excited and motivated for playing music.
Marilyn Tuohy of Armonk has become accustomed to hearing Meyers’ fun lyrics throughout the hallways of her home. “My daughter Sophia has Down Syndrome and loves music, which led a friend to recommend David to us. He really knows how to interact with her and gets her engaged no matter what her mood. He brings all instruments including drums, shakes, the keyboard and guitar and always comes up with new songs that are so alive and appealing to kids. They learn the lyrics right away. After David leaves, Sophia as well as my two sons and even my husband are still singing! I’ve seen my daughter’s speech and fine motor skills develop as a result. She speaks slower and clearer and is always singing in the house.”
Music is known to have therapeutic qualities and Meyers agrees, explaining, “Music has a natural timing and rhythm that serves to encourage children to use their voice in response to appropriate cues. Songs have a built-in conversational script that is valuable for children who have social challenges. Students learn to manage frustration, gaining the understanding that it’s okay to mess up and that they will eventually advance. It’s all in their control. These are skills they will take with them into adulthood.”
A Satisfying Crescendo
Today, that first client that inspired RockOnMusicSchool’s mission is now proficient in keyboards, bass, drums and guitar and has developed a love of The Beatles. Meyers proudly reports that this student has also integrated into a mainstream music class. “Each child already feels the music inside of them–some just need guidance to get it out,” he adds as we wrap up our conversation. And, it seems that Meyers has mapped the path as he continues to encourage all children to find a love of music in their own unique way.