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An Unusual Steel Band of Handicapped Children
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An Unusual Steel Band of Handicapped Children

An Unusual Steel Band of Handicapped Children

And the Dedicated lady who taught them

TOTALLY oblivious of his surroundings, mentally retarded Ter­rence Gittens the star of the David Rose School for the Handi­capped, beats his pans playing from his soul.

The steel band is com­prised of one hearing impaired and four men­tally retarded children. The headmistress of the school approached Cheryl Eversely, a teacher of the school, and asked her to teach the children who show­ed an interest. Cheryl plays the piano and recorder. She had to be taught by Roy Geddes, the pioneer of steel band music in Guyana. Another teacher of the school, Mr. Spence was taught also to assist Eversely.

Cheryl had to first familiarise the children with the notes by tak­ing their hands and placing them upon the notes over and over.

Then, individually, she had to teach each one to play the melody.
She went to each child at the pan and while the child looked on played the required note and then let the child try until eventually the child caught the tune.

Terrence started out playing the drum set. He now plays the guitar and bass steel pans. Terrence can play any instrument. His musical ear is such that all he has to do is hear someone play a tune and he would sit at the piano and pick at the notes until he picks up the tune.

He cannot read music. ‘He is just a musically talented boy,’ said Eversely. Terrence plays music to suit the season. From October he starts to play Christmas music and from January he plays calypsoes for Mashramani.

He has a language pro­blem in that he cannot speak very clearly, but Eversely says as long as the time is taken to listen to him carefully he can be under­stood. The band has helped him to develop a lot emotionally.

At first it was diffi­cult to get Terrence to play a tune or instrument that you wanted him to play. He would throw tan­trums and cry. Everse­ly says he is now a very disciplined boy and realises that the band is a joint effort, and easily obeys orders in the classroom situation and home environment.

Terrence also sings. The words are somewhat garbled but one cannot miss the tune.
He is partial to oldies. Terrence knows how to operate his father’s stereo equip­ment. He has arranged his favourite records in an order and plays them when he is in the mood.

Floyd Day, another member of the band is deaf. He learns to play different tunes by tak­ing his cues from watching the bass play and when the teacher plays he looks and fol­lows.

Addison Thomas a mentally retarded mem­ber first started to play the first pans but later demonstrated an interest in the drum set. “Wherever their interests lie you get the best out of them,’ Eversely remarked. Ayana Roberts who is also mentally retarded plays the tambourines.

The last member of the band Andrew Cippio who has Down’s Syndrome plays a per­cussion instrument.

Ms. Eversely is a quali­fied teacher of the men­tally retarded and has been teaching prac­tical self-help develop­ment skills and social graces.
She plans to widen the band and is presently scouting among stu­dents of the school for prospective members.

She says the children enjoy playing because when it is rehearsal time they all turn up.

‘Terrence never goes out to play with other children when he is at school. Instead he heads straight to the music room to play at break time.’ The child­ren can play thirty songs including “I Just Called to Say I Love You’ and ‘Guantanamera.”
Eversely says that it takes a lot of time, patience and tolerance to teach these disabled children, ‘I feel great and rewarded when I hear them play a song.’
She says that it’s her strong love for children that got her involved in teaching of the men­tally retarded. She does not have any children of her own but plans to have a family.

Eversely acknowledged the valuable input of the Bel Air Lions Club who donated the steel pans to the school two years ago. The head­mistress, of the school is extremely supportive and tolerant of the music noise.

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