Scotch Plains, NJ – October 2013… For parents of kids with autism, Aspergers, and other developmental issues, one of the biggest challenges can be finding an educational environment their kids won’t merely tolerate, but will flourish in. Newmark Education has earned a well-deserved reputation as one of the country’s most forward-thinking and effective institutions for kids affected by autism spectrum, with a success rate far beyond most public schools.
For a great majority of these kids, music plays an integral part of their treatment, and their personal development. And Newmark’s recently-opened cutting-edge educational facility is home to a fully contained music facility, with soundproof rehearsal room, electric and electronic instruments, personal monitoring, and multitrack recording, all based around a Mackie Onyx 1640i 16-channel mixing console.
Brian Gagnon worked with the school and Alto Music’s Bobby Montemurro to design and specify the system. “The concept was simple – no noise except when instruments were playing,” Gagnon explains. “And it had to be simple to setup and use, so anyone could run it.”
Executive Director Cynthia Allman concurs. “Because we’ve got time constraints, and the students have limited attention, keeping them focused is paramount – if a teacher can’t get the lesson started and get them engaged quickly, we lose them. As a small school, we don’t have a dedicated music staff, and some of the teachers using the room may have very minimal technical expertise. So it’s important that they be able to walk in, get started, and be up and running quickly.”
Electric bass and guitars connect via Eden DI boxes and Line6 HD Pods, with Roland keyboards and electric drums rounding out the band. “The 1640i is so easy to use and intuitive,” says Gagnon. “They’re able to focus on making music, not on technology.”
“Everything in the music room worked so smoothly from Day One,” says Allman. “Honestly, we have a lamp that’s given us more trouble.”
“The recording setup is simple and straightforward too,” Gagnon adds. “FireWire out of the Onyx, into the Mbox, and right into Pro Tools.” Avid Artist Series control surfaces provide tactile fader controls, and a set of Mackie HR824mk2 studio monitors completes the recording setup.
“It’s very therapeutic for the kids, on so many levels,” Allman enthuses. “These are kids with all kinds of different issues, many of whom struggle with socialization, but they will bond in that room, through the music. It’s probably the most popular place in our building now – our kids love the room. We’ve started a chorus; we have a music therapist who comes in and works with the kids; and we recently started doing an after-school teen night where they come in and play and record. They’re having the time of their lives.”