July 15, 2013 | Author: Donya K. Washington
A couple of months ago, I got the chance to go to Portland to visit PHAME Academy. For those not familiar with PHAME, this is how they describe themselves:
“PHAME is a passionate community of artists and performers with a range of developmental and other disabilities, and the teaching artists, volunteers, families and supporters who believe that everyone has the right to be an artist. We work with artists and performers between the ages of 17 and 70+, with a range of disabilities including Down Syndrome, Autism, Williams Syndrome, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy... but our focus at PHAME is on their artist’s abilities and possibilities.”
I saw their iPad music class, a theatre class and the choir. The range of things they're doing (tone poems in the music class to acted out narration in the theatre class) is amazing. The specific things were also fascinating – I’ve seen people fool around with piano apps on the iPad, but I’d never seen anyone seriously use it to make music. The students (who are all adults, but range in age) work as a group to create a tone poem. Each one has a different tone on their iPad, and there is a pre-determined order (i.e. first person one starts, then when the instructor gives the signal, students two and three have a musical conversation; at a signal they stop and students four and five have a musical conversation, etc) but beyond that, it’s all improvised. Together, they created music that elicited a real emotional response from me (which as my co-worker Cassie can attest, takes quite a bit from this jaded theatre goer). Later that afternoon, I had the chance to listen to their choir perform Coldplay’s Yellow. I’d heard the song many many times (I own the album), but I realized when I heard them that I hadn’t really listened to the song in ages. It took me back to the first time I heard the song…amazing.
The pure passion and joy on display at PHAME Academy is an inspiration.
Come out this Sunday as we welcome PHAME to the Green Show stage. I don’t know what they’ll be performing, and I’m rather excited about that. No matter what it is, I’m sure it’ll be a good time.