Music Educator Elise Sobol Says All Students Are Special Learners

New Book on Special Learners Explores Different Ways of Learning

When Elise S. Sobol discusses her work teaching music to special needs students, her passion for the students she has reached is unmistakable. And that passion led her to revise her 2001 book, An Attitude and an Approach for Teaching Music to Special Learners. MENC and Rowman & Littlefield Education copublished the second edition in September.

“Everyone makes their own contribution, and mine as a teacher is to show others how to work with children with low cognitive abilities. All children are special in the way they learn, and my approach helps teachers reach them,” Sobol said.

Other educators agree with Sobol. Her new book attracted dozens of testimonials from all over the world.  In the foreword to the book, Alice M. Hammel, Special Learners Chair of the Virginia Music Educators Association, wrote, “Sobol is genuinely excited about sharing her classroom experiences with other music educators. She reminds us of the joy in celebrating individual student improvement and the successes of all teachers and students.”

An adjunct professor at New York University Steinhardt School Department of Music and the Performing Arts Professions, Sobol also is a music teacher at the Nassau Board of Cooperative Educational Services, Department of Special Education, Rosemary Kennedy School for Students with Autism and Developmental Disabilities. She decided to revise her book because she has “learned so much in the classroom the past few years.” Sobol added that her aim was to provide teachers with specific tools that can help them reach students with different abilities.

For example, she uses the colors of the stoplight—red, green, and yellow—to help students understand the foundations of harmony and differences in pitch, learn rhythmic notation, and link to concepts in other disciplines, and to help teachers with classroom management.

The chapter headings include
•    Musical Process for Academic Progress
•    The National Standards for Music Education
•    International Speeches
•    Pearls and Roses

An accompanying CD includes materials for use in the classroom. Sobol also provides a six-part sample lesson plan based on mediated learning techniques and a curriculum project designed to teach critical thinking skills.

“Inside each and every child is a perfect human soul with unlimited potential locked up, needing to be set free to find his or her ultimate power of expression,” Sobol said. “All students possess innate musical abilities.” With her book, Sobol wants to help music educators and students find the key.

Roses and Pearls: Quotes by Elise S. Sobol found in her book,
An Attitude and an Approach for Teaching Music to Special Learners

  •     “There is no greater lively art than music for bringing out the learning potential of a student.”—”Music Success for Special Learners,” School Music News, March 1995
  •        “My most important function is to bring my students to a happy place in music where they feel safe, secure, and successful.”—Communication Through Music: A Language beyond Words. Lisbon, Portugal, July 1999
  •     “Dealing with cognitive and affective functions, music provides language for communication and development of self-expression.”— “Music Success for Special Learners,” School Music News, March 1995
  •        “Music is language beyond words. It is mathematics in process and progress. It is the science of sound and a study of history and cultures. It is architecture of form and geometry of design. Music is an essential part of healing, giving power to the will to succeed.”— “Music Success for Special Learners,” School Music News, March 1995
  •       “For many of the special needs and gifted children throughout the world, the creative cultural and musical arts will provide this important breakthrough.”—PTA and Cultural Arts at the Nassau BOCES Elementary Program, Newsletter, February 2001


Purchase a copy of An Attitude and Approach for Teaching Music to Special Learners.

Roz Fehr, October 27, 2008. © MENC: The National Association for Music Education