CAT B Students learn to play orchestra instruments

Ray teaches student to play their instrument.

The CAT B Orchestra is a class catered towards providing CAT B students, students with disabilities, an opportunity to learn how to play an orchestral instrument, such as the violin or cello.
The class is taught by Annie Ray, the AHS Orchestra teacher and also the creator of the Parent Orchestra, a program for adults who want to learn how to play an instrument.
“I truly believe that anyone can play music and have music in their life,” Ray said. “Music is inherently human, and we all have it in us.”
Ray, a passionate lover of music, started the CAT B Orchestra in hopes of being able to incorporate music into the education of as many students as possible.
As CAT B students, they don’t get as many choices and opportunities when it comes to class selection. So, the CAT B Orchestra provides these students with an opportunity to pursue more extracurricular courses.
“Music needs to be and should be a part of every student’s education and is something we can tailor to each kid,” Ray said.
Ray, a huge advocate for the benefits of music therapy, also noticed how CAT B students do therapy in class and realized that music therapy could be a great alternative to what the students were already doing.
“Students can express themselves through music, have a place to destress and have an identity, and work on skills that apply to other aspects of their life,” Ray said.
In the class, Ray began with teaching the students about musical symbols and composition.
She then moved onto teaching students about how to properly care and treat the musical instruments.
The students started off with cardboard instruments to get a feel for how to handle and play the instruments, without the risk of damaging real and expensive instruments.
With the help of local community donors, who donated used instruments, the students were then able to play real instruments.
The class proved to be a successful learning experience for the students, who found joy in being able to play the instruments, and also for Ray.
“It has been the most rewarding experience working with these students,” Ray said. “If I have to pick a favorite specific moment, it would be the students’ reactions to playing their open instruments for the first time.”
Ray was able to learn things that she could apply to her other classes and outside the classroom as well.
“[I learned that] success looks different for each student and to celebrate the small victories,” Ray said.
Going forward, Ray plans to have the CAT B Orchestra perform alongside the rest of the AHS Orchestra in their upcoming spring concert.
She also hopes to have non CAT B students, who are interested in a career path in therapy or medicine and want to learn how to play instruments, to join the class next year.
“We all have our own challenges, and music is one of the best vehicles to reach and overcome them,” Ray said. “What we learn in this classroom applies way beyond the notes on the page.”