The BHMA American Roots Ensemble was designed as an opportunity for students to learn about the music of the 19th and early 20th centuries, to gain an understanding of how music from that time period (as well as others) has impacted and helped to shape the music we love today, and to provide an opportunity to play that music and newer music with a better understanding of its origins.
In addition to musical instruction, this ensemble is designed to help build appropriate social interactions as they apply to a group learning process and provide a positive and interactive musical experience regardless of ability level. Social skills development is an essential part of the work of BHMA, as the population we serve includes young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders, Williams Syndrome, Down Syndrome, and other intellectual disabilities. At BHMA, music often serves as the bridge to enhance communication skills among our individuals, and Roots Ensemble is just one of the examples of our particular use of music infusion.
Participation and engagement (as well as motor development in some cases) is made accessible to students by using a wide variety of instruments from a washboard, shaker, or simple set of spoons to more complex instruments like a banjo or dobro in a non-standard tuning to create new, but approachable, experiences. Musical material is carefully chosen, specific the the individuals in the group, to be challenging but attainable and to provide the opportunity for social development with every chord struck or lyric sung.