A Positive Note (APN) is a music-making program for young adults with special needs that empowers all participants to access a sense of joy, self-discovery, belonging and accomplishment.

a positive note 2018 special needs

Introduced in the summer of 2012 with a handful of students, APN has grown into a thriving program serving more than 150 students annually, ages 12 to young adult.

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Fall Semester of 2020

Music Learning for Students with Special Needs

Saturdays, 10:30 AM-12:00 PM

Tuition:  $202 per semester | Monthly and Annual Plans available

Additional Private Piano Lessons with Occupational Octaves. Scheduled on an individual basis.

Exciting on line live ZOOM classes allow for interactive learning that will include Singing, Musicianship, Performance Sharing and Group Projects.

Class curriculum and ongoing interaction continues throughout the week in Google Classroom platform.

Additional individual one on one private ZOOM piano lessons are offered scheduled on an individual basis with tuitions based on amount of time requested.

Alternatively please contact Linette Weise-Perschke at: lperschke[at]csconservatory.org or call (719) 577-4556.

“My student had the program to look forward to every Saturday morning. Sometimes students with disabilities are somewhat isolated, and this program provides a fun, safe, stimulating social atmosphere in a very accepting setting where each student has the freedom to express themselves.”

– APN Parent

APN students have the opportunity to:

  • Explore music in an accessible and joyful way
  • Learn the basic elements of rhythm, piano, and string instruments
  • Dance, move and sing
  • Select an instrument and learn to play
  • Participate in public performance outreach programs


Our measure of success is to have students enjoy the process of making music regardless of skill level, and to share that joy with others, enhancing the quality of their lives, their loved ones, and the community in which they live.


a positive note self discovery

Students are encouraged to generate and express ideas and emotions in a nurturing, safe environment under the guidance of trained health and artistic professionals.


Many times young people with special needs feel isolated with few opportunities for socialization and collaboration. Two APN cornerstones are for students to develop friendships and to contribute to the group with an understanding that each individual is an essential part of a whole.

Moving beyond perceived boundaries

Students are empowered to move beyond self – limiting or societal misconceptions. Many “aha moments” and smiles result, markers of a previous boundary instantly dissolving.

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A Positive Note is founded upon an evidence-based group music making approach, “Recreational Music Making” (RMM). Research findings specific to RMM modalities provide direction for developing a meaningful, multi-dimensional experience for students.


Our faculty and consultants cast a wide net of experience in fields including music, education, healthcare, special education, occupational therapy, and behavioral therapy.


APN is honored to have a prestigious group of professionals who give their time and expertise to ensure best practices and support of our students.


APN is a member of the Conservatory Family of Programs. Established in 1994 by Oberlin and Juilliard educated Linda Weise, the Conservatory adheres to a philosophy of inclusion that provides fertile ground for young people of all skill levels, socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds to flourish.

A Positive Note was pleased to partner with The Arc for a class on Wednesday, August 26.


As with all Conservatory students, APN participants receive frequent invitations to perform publicly; a unique and unprecedented benefit of this program. Through the Conservatory, APN enjoys wide community support and agency interaction.


Although APN is rooted in research and music therapy, this program is designed for students to investigate and develop their sense of self through creative expression. All genres of music + instruments of choice + dance and movement + singing = FUN.


The overarching concept of APN is that students become band members in every sense of the word. Band members take turns being leaders, take turns being followers. A Positive Note develops important leadership and musical skills including:

  • Focused listening
  • Respect for self and others
  • Respect for the instruments
  • Innovating and nurturing ideas to fruition
  • Appropriate risk-taking
  • Collaboration
  • Personal goal setting
  • Cognitive engagement
  • Creativity
  • Friendship and support
  • Physical exercise
  • Stress reduction
  • Empowering self-expression


Jorden Smith, APN Creative Director, envisioned A Positive Note and penned its name. Jordy, a traumatic brain injury survivor, continually inspires students, faculty, parents, and performance audiences.


Our approach, “Recreational Music Making” (RMM), is the foundation for APN. It refers to playing musical instruments alone or in a group without the pressure of mastery or performance. The experience of making music is in itself the objective. Typically, when expectation of mastery is removed, students are empowered to sense music and movement more viscerally. Through that empowerment, students frequently gain the confidence and enthusiasm to share their music with others, often desiring to perform publicly.

Much like language, music can be learned through listening, watching and emulation. Identifying, then playing with the endless possible combinations of musical components (rhythm, melody, harmony, genre and instrumentation) is powerful and rewarding. (See Research.)

Discovery of and respect for each person’s strengths and individuality is primary. Everyone contributes to the music and dance. Diverse special needs and disabilities are represented in APN students. Some include Down Syndrome, Autism Spectrum Disorders, physical and cognitive impairments, learning disabilities, Traumatic Brain Injury, Fragile X Syndrome, and social challenges. In APN classes, a student’s identity is likely to be associated with his/her musical interest, favorite instrument or dance move. Hip-Hop, Taylor Swift, Elvis, Motown, Classical, Hair Guitar, Folk Rock, Rap, Blues, drums, keyboard, “the Robot”, bustin’ moves, all inclusive. “After all, they’re just kids,” one of our teachers observed.


Drums, voice, string instruments, and movement – ancient ways of music expression – merge with new technologies (Yamaha digital pianos, software, and ipads), and with scientific insights to provide a rich, expansive landscape where benefits inherent in music making abound. Research allows us to name, quantify and track many of those benefits, particularly with respect to psycho-social and biological changes that occur through group music making.

Recreational Music Making Defined by Barry Bittman, MD, and Karl Bruhn

What is it. . .

“Recreational Music Making encompasses enjoyable, accessible and fulfilling group music-based activities that unite people of all ages regardless of their challenges, backgrounds, ethnicity, ability or prior experience. RMM ultimately affords unparalleled creative expression that unites our bodies, minds and spirits.” – Karl Bruhn, Father of the Music Making and Wellness movement.

Since the dawn of our species, music likely served as a catalyst for societal evolution. Our innate capacity to communicate through music and rhythms may have played a key role in forging the evolution of civilization during primitive times when banding together was necessary to brace the elements and withstand the threats of savage beasts.

As civilization evolved, so did our recognition of music as a therapeutic tool. The concept of an inseparable healing link was epitomized through Greek mythology in the form of Apollo, the god of both music and medicine. Modern scientific research is now beginning to substantiate the wisdom of the ancients- the stuff our grandmothers knew all along.”



  • Jorden Smith – Founder, Creative Director, Guitar & Songwriting
  • Linette Weise Perschke, Lead Mentor APN and Early Education
  • Miranda Barness, Assistant Mentor
  • David Musante – Guitar Instructor, Conservatory Faculty and Alumnus
  • Kristianne Goff – Instructor

APN – Our own Research

According to surveys our APN staff have conducted, parents report that their students: (survey link)

  • Enjoy participating in APN
  • Are empowered to explore self-expression
  • Improve cognitive function through engagement in a group music-based activity
  • Experience physical exercise and stress reduction
  • Are at ease in a group and are empowered to take leadership roles
  • Move past perceived boundaries of capabilities
  • Share new skills in other social settings and in other relationships


In addition to Jordy’s inspiration, the expertise of our staff and advisory council and research findings, existing programs have influenced our APN design.  Here are some of these programs.  Members of our staff have training and years of experience in two of these programs, HealthRhythms and the Yamaha program.

SPECIAL ORCHESTRA – Formed in 1999 in Albuquerque, NM, this organization continues to encourage young people with special needs to play music, dance, and perform. Physically or cognitively challenged young people are able to play instruments that have been adapted to accommodate their special needs. (Specialorchestra.org.)

DANIEL’S MUSIC FOUNDATION – Founded in 2006, NEW YORK, NY. Daniel Trush, Founding Director, suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury as a young man, much like Jordy experienced. Also like Jordy, Daniel’s key to recovery was reconnecting to music. Although Jordy did not know of Daniel until A Positive Note was created, Daniel and his foundation have become a source of information as well as inspiration. Daniel’s Music Foundation has matured into an organization serving young people of all ages and disability challenges. Today, Daniel’s Music Foundation is well respected and generously financially supported, able to provide music making, social and leadership programming tuition-free. (Danielsmusic.org.)

HEALTHRHYTHMS – A division of the Remo Drum Corporation, HealthRhythms is an evidence-based “Recreational Music Making” program developed for healthcare, education, youth programming and therapeutic applications, utilizing percussion, voice and other instruments. With a specific intent and outcome for the group in mind (music or life skill), a trained facilitator creates a “safe” environment for the participants, empowering them to explore self-expression, cognitive engagement, friendship and support, creativity, physical exercise and stress reduction through this guided process of making music. In a fun and inclusive setting, participants are introduced to important leadership and musician concepts – focused learning respect for others, self, the instruments, the creation and nurturing of ideas, and appropriate risk-taking. (Remo.com/healthRhythms.)

YAMAHA RECREATIONAL MUSIC MAKING PRORAM: (RMM). Another evidence- based music making program utilizing digital pianos, guitars, and other instruments. RMM is simply defined as “making music in a group for enjoyment without performance or skill competency emphasis. Like HealthRhythms, Yamaha’s RMM program is part of music study and music wellness programs worldwide. As an example, Daniel’s Music Foundation integrates both HealthRhythms and the Yamaha RMM programs into its music and leadership programming. (Yamahainstitute.org.).



A Positive Note (APN) began as a vision of Jorden Smith who suffered a traumatic brain injury six years ago in a car accident. Jordy credits his ongoing recovery to his dedicated, knowledgeable medical staff members who continue to work with him daily.  He also credits his remarkable speed of and motivation for recovery to his involvement in music. Music was his love before his accident and continues to be a driving force in Jordy’s ongoing successes in his life.   Jordy amazes audiences with his musical mastery – playing guitar with one hand!

Equally impressive is Jordy’s enthusiasm for involving youth with disabilities and special needs in the music making experience. Jordy’s dream – for youth to have music in their lives regardless of physical, mental, developmental, or economic challenges, is now a reality. Jordy appropriately named the program “A Positive Note”, perfectly describing what APN is for students.

As Jordy continues his recovery, he remembers what he and other individuals with disabilities have often experienced – social isolation, boredom, depression, lack of mental stimulation and low self-worth. Part of Jordy’s vision in creating APN was to address these and other debilitating side-effects individuals with disabilities or special needs often face.  In APN classes, performances, and public speaking engagements, Jordy inspires everyone to remember to create a personal “Positive Note” every day.

More about Jorden Smith, APN Creative Director via Fox 21


With seed funding from our partners at the Pikes Peak Community Foundation and organizational groundwork completed by Conservatory parents, students and staff, APN began a pilot program in the summer of 2012. Since then, APN has served hundreds of young people in our workshops, semester sessions, and outreach programs. Our semester sessions have a high retention – nearly all participants from the first session are currently enrolled.

Future of APN, Community Demand
As the word spreads about APN, the demand for additional classes and programs grows. We look forward to conversations with individuals and organizations as to how we might serve your needs and fund our services.

Donate to the Program

APN Donation

  • American Express


  • Ken and Sandy Jaray
  • Kyle Jezwinski
  • The Loft Venue
  • David and Patricia Beemer
  • Jonelle Neighbor
  • Mary Jo and Don Sohn
  • Barbara Price
  • Alexander and Kathleen Paul


Parental Quotes:

JIM CARA: Parent of Kelsey Cara, APN student.
“Bang-bang! Bang-bang! The drum roll heralds the beginning of one of Kelsey’s impromptu concerts in her bedroom. . . .

Throughout Kelsey’s education at Rampart High School, she played in the school’s band. At first, she just played drums and later her teacher taught her to play in the percussion section. Kelsey, now 24, has Down Syndrome so playing in the school band marks an important milestone in her development.

Since leaving school, her musical endeavors were limited to singing along with Justin Bieber or staging impromptu concerts in her bedroom where she has a keyboard, karaoke machine, drum, guitar and triangle. . until I registered her for A POSITIVE NOTE at the Colorado Springs Conservatory.

Kelsey had previously attended Jazz Nites at the Conservatory, where she had to listen from the audience, sometimes mimicking the drummer’s actions on her own thighs. This time she was there to play herself. Her excitement was palpable as she met the patient and thoughtful instructors, as well as the other students.

To everyone’s amazement, Kelsey spontaneously went over to the piano and demonstrated that she remembered how to play a chord, even though she hadn’t had a piano lesson since middle school. The instructors maximized that interest in the piano and her remembered skills, as the group worked toward playing and singing familiar songs. Parents were encouraged to attend and watch the classes and many tears of joy were shed as we all witnessed our children participating in these amazing musical achievements.”

Several public performances have followed and, once again, Kelsey is registered to attend classes where she is able to joyfully express through music some of the things that she cannot express in words. In her life, this is definitely A POSITIVE NOTE.”

MARIANNE DANEHY: Parent of Will McTique, APN student.  William McTique, 16, has had a blast participating in A POSITIVE NOTE, a music program offered by the Colorado Springs Conservatory for individuals with disabilities. He tells people ‘I’m in a band!’ The program focuses on the enjoyment of music. You can see the joy on the kids’ faces as they sing ‘You are My Sunshine’ and ‘Mustang Jordy.’ Jordy, the other instructors and volunteers from the conservatory are great at involving the kids, each at his or her level. William has played guitar and drums provided by the program for use at the sessions, and he has brought in his ukulele from home. Will likes ‘rap’, and so he’s been encouraged to rap for the group – in the middle of the circle! I’ve seen other kids perform piano and drum solos for the group with much encouragement. It’s as much a social experience as it is a musical experience, complete with cookies and drinks. . . a great way to spend a Saturday morning together. William got some publicity, much to his delight! His photo appeared in the Gazette, and he and others were on the TV news. He also played the drum along with the band at the Mountain of the Sun Music Festival. I would encourage others to come on out and join us for more fun this fall. As William says, ‘guitar is fun.’

DON and MARY JO SOHN, Grandparents of Rachael Sohn, APN student. “ To A POSITIVE NOTE TEAM: Words cannot express how delighted our family has been with the opportunity for Rachael to take part in this program! You’ve provided inspiring, fun-centered music experiences that have stimulated every precious brain cell in Rach’s head. You’ve given her a chance to grow and shine in her special talent. You’ve shared your wonderful selves in friendship and encouragement. Thank you, and may you enjoy a great summer! Rachael will be back with you in the fall.”

Other parent comments:

“My student had the program to look forward to every Saturday morning. Sometimes students with disabilities are somewhat isolated, and this program provides a fun, safe, stimulating social atmosphere in a very accepting setting where each student has the freedom to express themselves.”

“My daughter is very quiet and reserved, and I was surprised to see her speaking up at times when she was addressed during the circle time. She usually tends to not speak up when in group settings.”

“Great social and musical experience for Will. Good rhythm learning.”

“Abigail enjoyed APN so much she was sure Santa would bring her a guitar for Christmas. ..and he did! We can’t wait for her to experience even more music.”

“This has been one of the best experiences for our son. As a result of his consistent involvement, he has developed a sense of accomplishment and now continues to play the drums at home.”

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