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Hyperscore removes barriers to expression for kids with disabilities

Educator Casey Burd, with 15+ years of Hyperscore experience in his classroom, says it is “limitless” for experiential and therapeutic learning

A Dusty Computer Opens Possibilities

For years, Casey Burd pulled out his old dusty dinosaur computer that had become an invaluable tool and the basis of integrated arts and music units in his classrooms at the Hawkswood School – a private school in Eatontown, NJ that serves students on the Autism spectrum and multiply disabled students. It had become so meaningful thanks to a program that he had downloaded onto it over 15 years ago – Hyperscore 4.

This year, that old computer finally gave out. Not wanting to lose a resource that had become so important for him and his students, Casey reached out to the New Harmony Line team. Luckily, he connected with us at a time that the revamped, web-based Hyperscore 5 is newly available, and for a much wider variety of devices. We are grateful that he joined us for August’s Office Hours to share the story of the incredibly versatile ways he has used Hyperscore over the years to create multifaceted opportunities for expression for his students.

The Power of Learning by Doing

Casey’s journey with Hyperscore originally began in the 2000s when colleague of his found it in an MIT publication. His school became enamored with the program after getting in touch with the old Hyperscore team and participating in a demo workshop. Despite having scant technology in the classroom at the time, Hawkswood began integrating it into their curriculum for supporting students’ expressive goals. In Casey’s words, “Hyperscore is a fantastic experiential tool, a true ‘learning by doing’ experience for our students whose skill sets are varied. In this way, it levels the playing field, offering a way for EVERY student to participate.” After 15 years in his classroom, among the many programs available, Hyperscore is “still the best one, especially for my needs, and my students’ needs”.

During the Office Hours meeting with Director of Education Cece Roudabush, Casey walks us in detail through his teaching processes. He and his colleagues integrate many axes of artistic expression, accessibility tools, and creative applications of Hyperscore to remove barriers to expression for far more students than traditional music pedagogy. They link art, music, and expression in myriad directions and configurations that maximize points of access and understanding for students.

For example, he has run Hyperscore on interactive Smartboards – an interface that allows for access to musical experimentation and expression in ways that other instruments that do not, particularly for students with limited mobility and range of motion. He uses Hyperscore in conjunction with a wide variety of accessibility tools and aids – such as switches, pointers, and large, highly visible color indicators – to enable each student to participate in ways that work for them. Casey also tends to use Hyperscore’s Classical harmony mode, which frees students to be as creative visually as they want while having all notes in the piece sound together consonantly. As many opportunities are given as possible for different ways of comprehending and learning what is taking place in the classroom and in the program, so that everyone can participate. Accessibility is not just a buzzword or an afterthought here – it is at the very center of the project. In this context that Casey and his colleagues have facilitated, any student is able to make music and express themselves in Hyperscore, thanks both to the accessibility tools in his classroom, and the ways that Hyperscore itself removes barriers to composing music.

One frequent project over the years that has brought together visual art and music through the intersection of Hyperscore is painting, as a classroom, murals inspired by the Hyperscore sketch window interface. Casey has directed this exercise most often as an introduction into the way that music looks in Hyperscore. He and his classrooms have even translated these murals directly into musical performance: each student is assigned or chooses a color and an instrument to play, and Casey slowly reveals the mural the class has painted, from left to right, from behind a large sheet of paper. As each colored line and dot is revealed, the student with the corresponding color plays their instrument for the time that the line or dot is still being revealed. This introduction into the notion of musical time moving left to right often makes the transition into using the Hyperscore software itself more intuitive for many students. Sometimes, they then translate the mural they painted into music written in Hyperscore itself.

Hyperscore’s use as an experiential tool, as opposed to strictly a compositional tool, is crucial in Casey’s classroom. Using communication devices to express preferences is part of the expressive goals of many of Casey’s students. Through the medium of Hyperscore, expressing preferences can be compelling and interesting – “What color do you like? What instrument do you like?”. and Casey believes that this expression through Hyperscore can support his students’ overall communication in different contexts as well. This pedagogy has many of the therapists that share the classroom space – working with students on their speech goals, expressive goals, and physical therapy goals – excited due to the effectiveness and potential at play in the space of artistic and musical expression.

Continuing with Hyperscore in years to come

We have been thrilled to speak with Casey and learn about the ways he has integrated Hyperscore into his pedagogy. Likewise, Casey has been thrilled to upgrade to the web-based Hyperscore 5. Having Hyperscore on his laptop is a game changer after using the same old computer for 15 years, and he expects that his students will love the visual theme customization after looking at the default theme in Hyperscore 4.3 for so long. These visual themes, and the wider range of instrument sets available in Hyperscore 5, grant even more crucial opportunities for students to express themselves and their preferences in the classroom. Bringing Hyperscore 5 to his students also means that they have the opportunity to experiment on their own devices outside of the classroom.

We join Casey in our excitement to see what expressive possibilities open up with Hyperscore in his classroom in the coming years. The ways Casey has integrated Hyperscore into his teaching are truly aligned with our ethos of access and removing barriers to musical expression for all. We hope his experience is an inspiration to other educators who hold these values dear!

Watch the full interview with Casey here:

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