‘And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
No one dare
Disturb the sound of silence’
~Simon and Garfunkel
Simon. Deaf. Ten years old. Learning difficulties. Frustrated. Eager. Lonely. Lively. LOVES MUSIC!
I first met Simon when he moved to a special school that I taught in. He moved from a hearing impairment wing of a mainstream school and was extremely anxious about the transition. His slight stature, bright red hair, bursting blue eyes, and enthusiastically happy smile timidly moved towards me as a staff member introduced him. He was adorable. Tiny. Skinny. Nervous. Terrified, but adorable. As he joined my music class, choir, and band, I really got to know his bubbling personality and wicked sense of humour. He could not talk. He used sign language and Makaton. I used Makaton, a little. Simon and myself had an electric connection. The conversation was music, symbols, gestures, and signs. I was happy and comfortable in his company. Simon was happy and content in mine. We were known as the ‘musical duo’.
Friday was music day. We had choir practice, song writing sessions, composition and improvisation class, sound therapy, and rock band. The atmosphere was one of musical brilliance. Varied vocal tones, ascending rushes of harmonic melodies, clashing chords, atonal combinations, laughter, irregular output from electric guitars, prolonged vibrations of stringed instruments, and united determination. From the outset, Simon became my music assistant. It just seemed to happen, naturally. He had such a deep-rooted interest in music and his rhythmic ability was exceptional. He gained such great delight from vibrations. Small, fleeting vibrations that came from keyboards and percussion instruments enthused him. Loud, prolonged, and booming reverberations excited him. Although Simon lived in a silent world, his universe was brimming with sound. Sound vibrations and rhythmic patterns intrigued him. Throbbing beats, and irregular pulse fascinated him. He was passionate about music, as was I. I think that is why we had such a strong connection. Music. Simon communicated with children and staff through facial expression, gestures, and music. He conducted the 47-child voice choir with me.
On many occasions, he conducted the choir without me. His small stature and silent voice oozed confidence, knowledge, and determination. He diligently watched the performance of each child and if they were not performing up to his high standards he would let them know with a stern look, or authoritative gesture. He read the lips of each and every choir member and encouraged a warm, confident, united act. Simon, such a small, deaf, slight, delicate and quiet child owned a loud, vibrant, confident personality. He was and is grateful for music. I am grateful he found music-and he continues to assist me leading music ensembles.