Inaugural ABLE Assembly: Arts Better the Lives of Everyone Conference

By 
Rhoda Bernard
April 13, 2018
Sheila Scott presents
conference presenter
The Merry Rockers perform
conference attendees listen
Dr. Bernard and guests at the reception
Jenna Gabriel presents her keynote presentation
Sheila Scott of Brandon University presents during the inaugural ABLE Assembly: Arts Better the Lives of Everyone conference.
One of several conference presenters
The Merry Rockers, a reggae band with a message of inclusion and acceptance, perform.
Conference attendees listen.
Rhoda Bernard, managing director of the Berklee Institute for Arts Education and Special Needs, and guests enjoy the reception.
Jenna Gabriel, special education manager at VSA at the Kennedy Center, delivers her keynote presentation.
Image courtesy of Mike Spencer
Image courtesy of Mike Spencer
Image courtesy of Mike Spencer
Image courtesy of Mike Spencer
Image courtesy of Mike Spencer
Image courtesy of Mike Spencer

More than 100 educators, artists, administrators, students, scholars, and policymakers attended the inaugural ABLE Assembly: Arts Better the Lives of Everyone conference on April 6–8 at Berklee College of Music. Sponsored by the Berklee Institute for Arts Education and Special Needs, this gathering (formerly known as Teaching Music to Students on the Autism Spectrum) featured performances by artists with disabilities and more than 50 presentations and workshops. Highlights included keynote presentations by Sheila Scott from Brandon University, Stephen Shore from Adelphi University, Jenna Gabriel from VSA at the Kennedy Center, and Jeff Poulin from Americans for the Arts.

The conference kicked off Friday night, April 6, with a festive reception that featured a performance by the Merry Rockers, a reggae band with a message of inclusion and acceptance. This ensemble formed at Berklee and is led by Marissa Lelogeais B.M. ’13, who has cerebral palsy and a visual impairment.

Saturday and Sunday brought full days of presentations and workshops, capped off by the keynote speakers. Attendees left the conference refreshed and inspired, thanks to the final keynote presentation by Jenna Gabriel, special education manager at VSA at the Kennedy Center, who urged all those in attendance to continue to pursue the important work of increasing opportunities for people with disabilities to participate and learn in the arts.

Planning is underway for next year’s ABLE Assembly, which likely will be held in early April.