Ep. 164: Adaptive Music Education: Achieving potential and nurturing exceptionalities with harmony; with Erin Parkes, PhD

How does music help special needs students?

Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash

The Lotus Centre for Special Music Education is passionate about making the well-documented benefits of music-making accessible to students with exceptionalities. Making music can have profound impacts on mood, motor skills, and overall well-being. The Centre’s Institute for Professional Development provides music educators with the skills and tools they need to help students of all abilities reach their full potential. Discover innovative resources, strategies, and collaborations that break barriers and foster inclusivity, allowing every individual to thrive through the harmonious world of adaptive music.


My guest today is Dr. Erin Parkes, founder and Executive Director of Lotus Centre for Special Music Education, a charitable organization committed to providing access to music education for people with exceptionalities. Erin is also an adjunct professor at the University of Ottawa, teaching courses and mentoring students in special music education. She presents at conferences and guest lectures internationally on teaching music to students with exceptionalities and other issues in music education.


We discuss:

  • The Lotus Centre for Special Music Education: What it is, the demographic it serves, and the inspiration for its beginning in 2012.
  • The Lotus Centre Institute for Professional Development: What it is, when it was launched, and Erin’s impetus for starting it.
  • Professional Development opportunities available for educators, including free and paid options.
  • Why music? How is music particularly effective in supporting students with special needs?
  • Collaborations between Lotus Centre and arts organizations to implement music performance and improvisation for people with disabilities.
  • Misconceptions or myths about music education for students with special needs.
  • Additional resources for educators, parents, and students.

Connect/Other Resources

Other episodes we mentioned or that you may enjoy:

In-Episode Promo

Arts for the Health of It podcast; and

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Erin shares about a student who had a special moment at an event held with the National Arts Centre Orchestra. The moment led to this beautiful recording:

Closing Words

And that is a little bit of Aidan playing “The Swan” with his cellist friend. You can watch the full song on the YouTube video in the show notes. Thank you so much to Erin for joining us today, and for all she does to enhance lives with music for students with exceptionalities and their teachers!

All Enhance Life with Music episodes are evergreen; so check out the back catalogue for more ways that music can make your life better.

You can always connect with me on email (mindy@mpetersonmusic.com), Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

Thank you so much for joining me today. Until next time, may your life be enhanced with music.

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