A Music Teacher Who Changes Lives

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iPads
On the surface, the PS 177 Technology Band looks like a typical high school orchestra. But there are two big differences. First, while they use traditional instruments, they also play iPads. And all of the band members have disabilities. Some have autism spectrum disorders….

Tobi Lakes, a tall, wire-thin teen with thick glasses sits at an electric piano. He taught himself to play.

“I’m very good. I like the piano. I like the keyboard. Keyboard is the best. Number one!” Tobi says with a wide smile. On his school-issued tablet computer, using a music app called Thumb Jam, Tobi also loves his iPad “guitar.”

As rehearsal heats up Tobi takes the lead on rock guitarist Jeff Beck’s version of Puccini’s “Nesun Dorma.” Tobi Lakes, iPad guitar shredder, is learning disabled. He’s autistic. And he’s also blind in one eye.

Adam Goldberg, the creator of the PS 177 band, gets the music started.

Teacher
“The first note of the second line please,” he tells them. “In blue. There ya go. That’s the pizzicato.”

The 53 year old teacher is a classically trained pianist with a degree from the Manhattan School of Music. About 20 years ago he began substitute-teaching here while playing freelance jazz and rock gigs. He was soon offered a job at PS 177, and he’s been at the school ever since.

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