Filling a gap in music education, the Southwest Florida Music and Education Center (SWFLMEC) has unveiled a groundbreaking, comprehensive music education program for young adults with a variety of learning styles. The curriculum was created by the Berklee Institute for Arts Education and Special Needs, and enrollment is now open for the fall 2022 semester.

The first of its kind, this post-secondary curriculum provides practical, career-oriented music education for pre-college and college-age musicians who learn differently from their typical peers. The program is designed for young adults with diagnoses such as autism spectrum disorder, learning disabilities, social pragmatic communication disorder and anxiety-related neurodiversity disorders.

“This curriculum breaks new ground in post-secondary music education for individuals with complex learning schemes,” said Dr. Rhoda Bernard, Founding Managing Director of the Berklee Institute for Arts Education and Special Needs. “Firmly rooted in the local and national music standards at both the K-12 and collegiate levels, it is the first truly comprehensive music curriculum that has been developed for this population.”

Aspiring musicians can choose from a two-year or four-year certificate program to cultivate their musical abilities, preparing them for independence and a successful career path. Programmatic elements include essential core courses, engaging electives, career readiness workshops, individual and ensemble instruction, and master classes, as well as performance and internship opportunities.

Graduates will possess skills such as composing, conducting and arranging, ideally suited for a variety of potential career paths that include musical performance, recording engineers, music supervisors for film, television, video games or the internet, and more.

“Encouraging the unique abilities of neurodivergent individuals with a strong interest and talent in music brings their gifts to the forefront of society, allowing space for perceptions to be changed, connections to be made, and artists’ talent to be appreciated and enjoyed,” said Rob Moher, founder and board chair of the Southwest Florida Music Education Center. “Working together with their peers and highly qualified staff, our students learn to tap into their gifts and develop a sense of independence that allows them to dream and build toward a bright future. Success for these young adults depends upon our highly trained professionals, small staff-to-student ratios, proven program design, availability and affordability.”

All instructors at the SWFLMEC will be trained by the Berklee Institute for Arts Education and Special Needs on combining evidence-based practices in special education with pedagogical approaches in music education. They will learn how to meet each student where they are through employing adaptations, accommodations and modifications in their teaching approaches and classroom activities. The Berklee Institute for Arts Education and Special Needs is an international leader in professional development and pre-service teacher training for music educators in teaching music to students with disabilities and diagnoses.

After laying a strong foundation, the music curriculum reinforces concepts over time to improve retention and accommodate a wide range of learning styles. Additionally, other highly personalized programs include special education and mental health support, as well as peer and professional mentoring to help students with life skills for self-care, advocacy and independence. This includes managing anxiety, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, creating meaningful relationships, time management, executive functioning, personal safety, professional skills and more.

At the time of enrollment, students must be 16 to 30 years old with low to moderate support needs and must demonstrate mostly independent self-care skills. Students should also possess musical skills at an intermediate level or higher on one or more instruments, including voice, percussion, strings, guitar and piano/keyboard.

For more information or to offer your support for this project, contact Jennifer Clark at JenC@SWFLmusic.org, call 239-205-8258 or visit SWFLmusic.org.

About the Southwest Florida Music Education Center:

The Southwest Florida Music Education Center is a not-for-profit organization serving neurodivergent young adults with a strong interest in music. Based in Naples, Florida, its mission is to create a world-class music education center where neurodivergent students who have a strong interest in music and low to moderate support needs receive education in music and life skills, preparing them for meaningful growth opportunities that enrich their lives and the community. For more information, visit SWFLmusic.org.