We took some time to talk with Jacob Levy, founder of MODIFIED MUSIC-ATION, which combines a basic approach to learning with the fundamentals of music. Along with music education, MODIFIED MUSIC-ATION incorporates music concepts into academics, as it assists with comprehension & ease of memory. We were interested in learning about the man behind the music and here is what we found out.
What inspired you to get into special education? What a loaded question! What inspired me to get into special education were 2 main factors.
When I noticed music could be used as a therapeutic purpose. I wanted to give back; I grew up with a learning disability due to a brain hemorrhage at birth and I always struggled with my short term/long term memory; still do at 34 years old. I consider myself extremely lucky to be as capable as I am, considering my weaknesses.
How did you discover your connection to music?
It happened at a very young age when I would share piano lessons with my sister. Although I wasn’t a big fan of practicing, I had this strange ability to basically figure out any song I could sing and play back on the piano. It was an unbelievable feeling! Although I wasn’t perfect student, it felt like I immediately understood the language that is know as music. I felt like music was my superpower.
And how have you used music to impact your life and positively influence others?
Ok here it goes…So, as I mentioned I grew up with a learning disability due to a brain hemorrhage at birth. Because of this, I struggled with short/long term memory retrieval in school, life, etc. However, the thing I excelled in was music. I could remember and play back on multiple instruments hundreds of songs I heard by ear with great ease. After studying music for a while, I made the connection of using short melodies as a mnemonic device for memory recall for myself.
After going to school for music performance and then special education, I taught as a special educator for a few years. I then would use small melodies anywhere I could as a mnemonic device for students; it would be anything from academic subjects, life skills, behavior management, you name it! At 34, I still use music to remember pretty much anything and everything!
What is your favorite memory from your teaching career?
My favorite memory was when I was working with a student who had high functioning autism and a learning disability in high school. The student was learning to memorize the order of math operations: PEMDAS. Instead of teaching the poem (“Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally”) I knew this student LOVED music. So I turned on the classic song “Everybody Dance Now” (C+C Music Factory) and taught the student the melody to the song first (playing on the student’s STRENGTH which was clearly auditory).
Two days after introducing the song, I began reinforcing PEMDAS but I would match the 6 letters with the 6 syllables of the chorus “everybody dance now!” Needless to say it was a big success (and a lot of fun!). I still associate PEMDAS with this funky song to this day!
What advice would you give someone with a learning disability who is struggling with school right now?
DON’T be afraid to ask for help! There are so many resources at your fingertips but sometimes we all need a little extra assistance. Focus on your strengths; don’t dwell on your weaknesses. For me, I used my strength to my advantage to help myself and then serve others. Always explore new and different things because you never know where it can lead. ALWAYS ALWAYS be yourself! Everyone is different for a reason!
Anything else we should know about you?
I love jazz music, playing the saxophone/piano and enjoy all types of food from around the world. I’m an avid traveler, too. I live in Metro Detroit with my wife and two year old daughter.