“You have to go with the Flow”
That’s what Dr. David Lazerson, or Dr. Laz as everyone calls him, told me. Dr Laz teaches experiential music class to special needs students in Florida. His classes consists of students with various learning disabilities and special needs. They are not grouped according to their needs so there is a wide range of types of students. They are given instruments to play and microphones to sing into. Some of the percussion instruments are adapted for the students so that you can press a button and the sticks will hit the drums via attached motors.
So what are the classes like? ABSOLUTE CACOPHONY!
Drums are beaten with wild abandon. Random cluster of piano keys pressed with splayed palms. Students scream along wordlessly as others sing the song. In the middle of all this chaos is Dr Laz, a whirlwind of activity. One moment he’s singing “Octopuses Garden” accompanying himself on the electric guitar. Another moment he leads a drum circle, banging away on the congas. Then he jumps to helping a student play the motorized drums. He reminded me of the chinese plate spinning act, jumping from one thing to another trying to keep the class going and preventing it from grinding to a halt.
It’s easy to see this and think “What the hell? This isn’t a class! This is bedlam” You could almost call it organized chaos except it doesn’t appear to be organized. But then you sit and observe that things are not as chaotic as it appears at first. The kid on the drumset is keeping time to the song. Some of the singers are singing in monotone but they are singing. The girl on the hammock is rocking to the beat. One girl even sang a song while strumming the guitar in time as Dr. Laz formed the chords.
And you see that the kids are engaged, having fun and paying attention.
In the middle of all this is the whirling dervish that is Dr. Laz, with boundless enthusiasm, encouraging the kids with an emphatic “yeah!” or with a Rastafarian accent “yeah, mon!”