Music Helps Kids Overcome Disabilities
Since 2000, the MercedesNorteSchool
of Music in Heredia, north of San José,
has given children with disabilities the
opportunity to succeed in life with the help
With 21 members, 16 of whom have disabilities
including Down syndrome and
autism, as well as paralysis and other physical
disabilities, the percussion group
Inclusion performs for audiences all over
the country while exposing the children
involved to the benefits of playing music
within a group.
“There are university studies that demonstrate
how, after some years, the kids of our
school become more outgoing,” said José
Luis López, director of Mercedes Norte.
“One child who had divorced parents came
alone to the school without his mother realizing,
despite his high dependency on her.”
Four professors with an array of musical
experience teach the students to read music
and play instruments such as the xylophone,
drums, bongos, maracas and many others.
“We teach by following routines,” said
Ignacio Solano, head professor and a music
veteran with more than 30 years of experience
teaching in institutions such as the
National Youth Symphony and Castella Conservatory.
“It’s not difficult. It’s a pleasure.”
Every Wednesday, practices are held in an
upstairs room of the school. The room,
packed tight with parents, aides, students,
teachers and instruments, constantly reverberates
with noise often so overpowering
that neither the teacher nor any semblance
of music can be heard.
However, once the students give their
attention to the professors, their love for
making music becomes apparent.
They follow the lead of professors Juan
Pablo Retana on the drums, Inés Chaves on
the xylophone and Ana Leticia Solano on the
violin, playing everything from “Twinkle,
Twinkle Little Star” to cumbia, a Colombian
Professor Ignacio Solano plays his tuba as
he walks around the room, often stopping to
point to one student looking up at him with
excitement, telling him or her to play a solo
Elizabeth Ureña, mother of 27-year-old
Rigoberto Alfaro, who won four medals in
swimming at the 2006 Special Olympics in
Belfast, Ireland, saw several positive changes
after her son joined the group to play the
“It helps him with discipline because he
has a schedule that he has to cover,” Ureña
said. “Also, the fact that they feel part of a
group is very important, as there aren’t many
organized groups where special kids can get
together and have a space where they can
relate with others.”
Apparent also are the therapeutic benefits
of playing instruments, especially in developing
fine and gross motor skills.
“One student had foot problems at the beginning,” López said. “With the drum practices, he now walks better.”
Though the students learn at different paces, the teachers don’t allow disabilities to get in the way of goals.
“We want our students to take their talents to the top and learn to play various instruments so that someday they can perform outside of the country,” López said.
So far, Inclusion has given more than 300 performances at a variety of venues, from schools and private companies to Casa Presidencial and the Embassy of the Dominican Republic.
Through food sales and festivals, the group tries to raise money for the music school’s charity association and to build a classroom on the first floor to provide better accessibility for students in wheelchairs.
For López, one of the most satisfying moments of working in the program came when Alfaro approached him and said, “God bless you.”
“I felt that God put the kids close to me in this school to give them an opportunity to be happy with music,” López said.
For more information about Inclusion, contact López at 8385-1303.
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