Featured live interview on CBS WTVR 6 "Virginia this morning" Heidi Thurmond and Tracee Prillaman talk with hosts about how VIVO reaches out to music students with autism integrates them into larger musical communities.
Original Broadcast 8/29/08 9am
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New Program Brings Life-changing Power of Music to Special Students

The language of music transcends every obstacle, and a new program in Richmond will reach out to children with autism in grades K-5 so they can benefit from music’s transformational and soul-soothing power.

Vivo classes were developed locally by Da Capo Institute and completed a successful pilot debut in the spring of 2008. This fall, Da Capo will offer weekly Vivo classes at three local churches (Bon Air Presbyterian, River Road Presbyterian and Huguenot Road Baptist) beginning the week of September 22. The 10-week sessions and concluding concerts run through December 2 at a cost of $200 per student. Class schedules and registration information are available online at www.dacapoinstitute.org.

In the Vivo program, students learn to develop their singing voice, discover melody and rhythm, move in response to music, and utilize classroom instruments for hands-on instruction before putting all these new skills together in a final performance at the end of the session. Musical skills, however, are just the beginning of the benefits of Vivo, according to Heidi Thurmond, who holds a master’s degree in music therapy and is the lead Vivo instructor.

“Music is an outlet of expression for all levels of musicians, but that outlet is especially valuable for students who might find it more challenging to communicate with others on their own,” explained Thurmond. “With the help of music, these students can connect in a way that’s so exciting to be a part of. It’s such a joy to watch them develop into real musicians.”

Da Capo Institute was founded by the husband and wife team of Jeff and Tracee Prillaman, who created the Vivo program with Thurmond. Da Capo’s whole-
child philosophy works with students on their social, physical and emotional skills to complement their growing love of music. “At the final concert of our pilot program, Vivo students felt an enormous sense of achievement,” said Tracee Prillaman.

During the spring pilot of Vivo, Marie Wilborn’s eight-year-old son eagerly looked forward to Tuesdays, where he learned about opera and music artists while making new friends. “It’s so important for special needs children to have the opportunity to enjoy all aspects of life, including music,” said Wilborn. “I’m planning to enroll him in the fall sessions and would highly recommend this program to others.”

“Vivo is a program where students with autism can make and learn music in community with other musicians, regardless of any other limiting factors,” concluded Tracee Prillaman. “Music touches everyone in a special way. It binds us all together.”