David Starnes started out as a faculty member of the School of Music at Western Carolina and helped run the Pride of the Mountains marching band on campus. In recent years, Starnes has joined the Board of Directors for United Sound, helping coordinate events and plan future expansion plans for the influence of United Sound on Western Carolina’s campus.
According to Starnes, United Sound is a non-profit organization that helps students with special needs find a connection through music. All over the country, bases of United Sound have been formed. The purpose of these bases is to allow for special needs majors to join together with music majors, and help teach students with disabilities how to play music.
United Sound is a peer-mentoring program with music and special educations teachers working together. Their jobs are to help get students to join the club. Each club must have 24 peer men- tors in order to effectively teach the special needs students on each campus.
In order to participate in United Sound, parents of the special needs child fill out a form online.
This helps the mentors find out everything they need to know about each student and get them equipped with the best-fitting instrument and sheet music for them.
According to United Sound’s official website, the special education teachers help train the peer mentors before the program begins and during the club meetings. At the meetings, there are three mentors per group of special needs students set up around a room. Each special needs student is taught at the pace at which they can learn by a single peer mentor. This lets other peer mentors continue through the lesson without having to wait for each individual.
Once per semester, special needs students that have gained enough experience are able
to join the full music ensemble for a performance of a full orchestra piece. Each special needs student is able to make a contribution to the performance as a whole.
Two years ago, United Sound started a base here at Western Carolina University. Western Carolina was the first college campus to join with United Sound. Through cooperation with the special education department, the music majors of Western Carolina can have a way to get involved with more performances and programs of on-campus music.
Recently, a mentoring program started to help more music and special education majors get involved with the teaching of the special needs students. Western Carolina was also the first to have this type of mentoring program set up on a college campus.
Students and faculty can get involved with United Sound through the music department. Currently, it is only available to music majors and has just started to become available to special education majors by allowing them to at- tend any rehearsals that the music department puts on.
United Sound hopes to expand their organization even further by adding more bases in
colleges and even in high schools. The organization is already expanding more and more every year with the help of college students and faculty. The organization currently has 15 bases around the country with 176 mentors, 207 teachers and 557 college students involved.
When looking towards the future as a whole, United Sound’s main goal is to continue and expand throughout the country. The organization wants to reach as many students with special needs as they can.
On Tuesday, April 26 the United Sound base of Western Carolina held a performance with a concert band. Although this is fairly new, the base on Western Carolina’s campus is sure to expand and bring even more events to students as well as help more special needs students find and play music.