Teacher Feature: Making the Joy of Music Accessible for All with COAST Program Instructor, Beth Syverson

“Music is a universal language and a birthright, and it brings me great joy to find out each person's unique talents.”

COAST students learn audio controls in the COAST Music Basics Program.
COAST students learn audio controls in the COAST Music Basics Program.
(Image courtesy of Beth Syverson)

Music is one of many ways we can connect and relate to one another, and Coast Music Basics Instructor, Beth Syverson, is ensuring all students feel the magic of music in its totality! Coastline’s Career Options through Academic Support and Training (COAST) Program is a vocational program that is provided through Special Programs and Services, whose purpose is to provide students with the skills and preparation needed to make them marketable in the workforce.

Read on to learn more about Beth’s background in teaching music, how she came to work at Coastline, and her valuable insight into the importance of Special Programs!

Coastline Special Programs Music Instructor, Beth Syverson.
Coastline Special Programs Music Instructor, Beth Syverson.
(Image courtesy of Beth Syverson)

How did you first get involved with special programs at Coastline? What drew you to working with students with disabilities?

I have taught piano lessons since I was 12 years old. But in my 30s, after 2 decades of teaching "Mary Had a Little Lamb" to countless beginners, I started getting a little bored with it; so, I started teaching students with disabilities at a community center in Santa Ana. A blind student came in one day, so I learned Braille Music Code. I wanted to make sure they were musically literate despite their disability. My studio eventually transitioned to mostly contain students with either intellectual disabilities or visual impairment. Ten years ago, I found out about the opening for a music teacher at Coastline Special Programs, and I jumped at the chance. I love the challenge of teaching music to all kinds of people. It's like a puzzle to figure out what will work for each individual. Music is a universal language and a birthright, and it brings me great joy to find out each person's unique talents.

What is your favorite part about working in special programs at Coastline?

The students at Coastline are so positive and hard-working. In our voice class, we have one person sing a karaoke solo each week, and then 3 students are allowed to share what they liked about their performance. They are so complimentary to each other -- "You should be on The Voice!" "You sing like an angel!" My Coastline students have taught me so much about seeing the true talent and beauty in each person.

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Can you speak to the importance of accessible and equitable education for students with disabilities?

Taylor Cox is a sophomore at Orange Coast College, and I've taught her piano lessons for over 12 years. Taylor is completely blind. She learned Braille Music Code from me from day one, even though she grumbled about it often as a teen. But now she's glad she learned it because as a Music Major at OCC, she is able to fully participate in Music Theory class, choir, and piano class by reading her music in Braille (with transcriptions provided by the college). Taylor's future is unlimited because of the support the school, teachers, and classmates have given her.

What is your favorite part about being the Music Basics program instructor?

I created the COAST Music Basics curriculum as a vocational course and started our first cohort 2 years ago. It's a 4-semester program in which the students learn skills to gain entry-level employment in the music industry - as ushers, assistant A/V techs, music teacher aides, and more. It's very gratifying to watch my students get more confident and skilled each week. They are in their fourth and final semester now, and they are working with Coastline's Career Services to help them find jobs. I can't wait to see where they end up! And I'm looking forward to starting a new cohort in Spring 2024! The future is wide open for these students!

Professor Syverson with her COAST Music Basics students.
Professor Syverson with her COAST Music Basics students.
(Image courtesy of Beth Syverson)

How does the COAST program help students transition to the workplace?

Every lesson I craft for my COAST Music Basics class is directly related to work they might do in the music industry. My students have learned to set up and run sound and lights, organize sheet music, tune ukuleles, set up speakers and stages, and much more. They have learned practical skills that an employer will be seeking. In addition to the music courses, they've also concurrently taken employability skills courses through the COAST program, which teaches them how to write resumes, interview well, and other job-related communication skills. We equip our students for success!

Can you share a bit about the special events you host to celebrate students at the end of every term and your favorite part about putting these events together?

Traditionally, Coastline Special Programs students and faculty celebrate the end of each semester with a Student Showcase. But this December, we will be trying something different. The COAST Music Basics class, as their culminating project, is producing a show - Coastline's Got Talent. They have made all the plans and decisions along the way, including running auditions and planning the tech, and they will be behind the scenes during the show. This is a great chance for the students to put all the skills they've learned in the last 4 semesters into practice.

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What’s the backstory of the upcoming Coastline’s Got Talent show? What was the vision and the goals that shaped this event?

The COAST Music Basics students chose the theme Coastline's Got Talent because they wanted to bring in a variety of talented acts. (Another cohort might choose to create a musical or a themed show of some sort.) The students recently held auditions, and about twice as many people auditioned as we needed for the show. So, my students had to do the difficult task of deciding which talented performers fit best in their show. The class will plan the microphones, lighting colors, and staging for each act. For the show, they will be setting up the stage, taping down the cords, handing out the programs, stage managing during the show, and much more. They are getting an inside look at the many varied tasks it takes to put on a show.

What impacts have you seen on students who utilize special programs, and how has it impacted you in turn?

I have watched my COAST Music Basics students gain confidence and improve their teamwork skills through this program. My other Community ID music classes at Coastline leave music class with a smile on their face, humming a tune. They bring me so much joy, and I hope the music we create together brings joy home with them too!

COAST Music Basics student learn lighting controls that are then put to use during their first production, Coastline's Got Talent.
COAST Music Basics student learn lighting controls that are then put to use during their first production, Coastline's Got Talent.
(Image courtesy of Beth Syverson)

For students who might benefit from special programs, what advice would you give to students about reaching out to access these resources?

If students are interested in employment, I think the COAST program is an excellent opportunity. In addition to the Music Basics class, other COAST courses are Animal Care, Drama, Art, Porter, Horticulture, and Culinary. Applications are being taken right now for several new cohorts, including Music Basics, so interested students should call the Special Programs office at 714-241-6214 right away. Not all students are interested or compatible with vocational coursework, though, so our Community ID classes are open to students of all abilities. Either way, the faculty, staff, and other students here at Coastline are encouraging, creative, and confident in our students' individual potential.

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