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Celebrating Williams Syndrome Awareness at BHMA

May is a very busy month at Berkshire Hills Music Academy. In addition to second year student recitals, solo showcases, the spring concert, and commencement ceremonies, we've hosted 3 BHMA benefit events and a ceremonial groundbreaking for the Bernon Music Center! But, amidst all the hustle and bustle, we take time to recognize what a special time of year the month of May is--Williams Syndrome Awareness Month! Check out the following snapshots of five of our fourteen students with WS:

Image of Brett, wearing a striped collared shirt and an open red zip-up jacket, smiling on BHMA's porch.

Brett is a part-time first year student at BHMA who moved to South Hadley from Pennsylvania last spring. Brett was immediately embraced by our community. He participates in vocational exploration and many of our social and recreational offerings. When asked about his experiences at BHMA as a young adult with WS, Brett said, "People with WS are good people. I'm proud of my art and my work at Amherst College in the cafeteria. I like that I get to live with my friends."

Image of Tim Connor, wearing a white button-up shirt, smiling at the camera as he stands outside.

Tim is a LIVE (Long-term Independent Vocational Experience) member, whose been at BHMA for 7 years. He is a pillar of our student body, and of the Performance Troupe as a drummer/percussionist. He's also a pianist. When he's not playing music or mixing music on his computer, Tim enjoys being a resident at Meadow Lane (the BHMA off-campus house), hanging out with friends, going to UMass, and playing soccer. 

Image of Tori Ackley, wearing a black dress white white patterns over an off-white sweater, posing in BHMA's backyard.

Tori, a veteran at Berkshire Hills told us that "Williams Syndrome is a genetic disorder. Many of us are musically inclined, bubbly and enthusiastic. I love that I get to do what I love-- performing for people all over the place." Tori recently shared her anti-bullying and disability awareness message with a packed audience in Cleveland, where she performed with the Cleveland Pops Orchestra. She in an incredible young lady with a multitude of talents to share with others.

Image of Carly Ziemba, wearing a green and blue patterned dress, posing in BHMA's student kitchen.

Carly Z is a first year student who attends BHMA as a day participant. Carly is outgoing, friendly and supportive of all students. When asked about what it's like to have Williams Syndrome, Carly says, "Some days are easy and some days can be hard, but you get through by taking deep breaths and talking to people and friends." Carly is also a strong self-advocate and urges others: "It's good to learn more about yourself as you become an adult. Don't let people disrespect you for having a disability." Musically, Carly is a beautiful vocalist and is proud that she's improving her vocal range in her lessons. She also reports that she's proud of all the growth she's made in her life skills classes at BHMA. 

Image of Ben Monkaba, wearing a striped button-up shirt, posing on BHMA's back porch.

Ben is very well known in the Williams Syndrome community; Ben supports his mother, Terry Monkaba, Executive Director of the Williams Syndrome Association, as an exceptional ambassador. He's a social butterfly with friends from all over the country. In regards to Williams Syndrome, Ben says, "It's a rare disability and we love talking to people. I like helping younger people with WS know that they can have positive futures." When asked about his achievements, Ben says, "I'm proud of my hard work with LIVE Band, clowning, living off campus and I really enjoy doing what I do."


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