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A story on a high school band that includes students of all learning abilities.

How Music Can Make Us Better People


We know that music provides so many benefits to the brain but we were touched by one story about how music can make us better people.


A newspaper from Everett, Washington talks about 19-year-old Brandon Gelo and his school’s commitment to offering a percussion ensemble for special education students. By integrating band for students of all learning abilities, the high school’s culture has transformed.


Gelo began his life with many challenges. He was born with fetal alcohol syndrome that doctors said would limit his ability to walk, talk and respond to people. Born from a mother who was a victim of domestic violence and who was homeless during pregnancy, Gelo was part of the foster system from birth. His adoptive parents believed he could surpass doctors’ expectations and encouraged him to flourish.


By the time Gelo was a freshman in high school, he joined the school band. At first, he found the high school environment over-stimulating and would curl up in the fetal position to cope. However, band director Lesley Moffat worked with him until he could join the other players in the percussion ensemble. He now plays by ear the guitar, banjo and piano. He has since been hired as a teaching assistant for the school’s concert band.


Since Gelo’s inclusion into the band, more than a dozen special ed students have joined the percussion ensemble.


The Herald reporter wrote: “With more special and general education students making friends, Moffat said, she and other educators have noticed changes at school. Students are sitting together at lunch, exchanging high-fives in the hallways and helping each other. Brandan’s bandmates, for example, signal him when it’s time to play. ‘They’re not just being nice because he has special needs,’ Moffat said. ‘They’ve built genuine friendships.’”


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