Michael Cannon, Ashley Parthemer, Katie Scagliola, and Karina Castro

The mission of the “Exceptional Ensembell” hand bell choir is to increase independence, self-esteem and social skills of adults with disabilities. This mission uses the group’s love of music as motivation to improve their ability to interact and communicate with others. The program also responds to the severe shortage of performing arts instruction available to adults with developmental disabilities. In April 2018, 2 parents of young adults with autism and related disabilities partnered with the Town of Jupiter, Florida to create a fun interactive program based on a national handbell choir model that taps music therapists’ expertise to inspire joyful learning. Based on advice from Sue Graves, music therapist director of the Joybells choir near Philadelphia, we chose to use handchimes, much lower cost than handbells. By July we offered 2 classes/week at the Jupiter Community Center using a 1-year loaner set of handchimes by the Handbell Musicians of America. That September, we started collaborating with our current instructors, Creative Arts Therapies of the Palm Beaches (CATPB), who obtained another set loaned by Florida Atlantic University’s Music Department. Since our first session, our in-person and virtual classes using Zoom (due to Covid-19), the “Exceptional Ensembell” hand bell choir has included nearly 30 participants (“ringers”) ages 21-46 with 1 or more disabilities including autism, Down syndrome, and cerebral palsy. We offer Level 1 and Level 2 classes. The group performing is from our Level 2 class.

You can find the quartet’s performance here.

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