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Singers with disabilities share important lessons about inclusion and belonging with Centenary University students

Partnership between Centenary University and Abilities of Northwest Jersey Inc. is marked by music, friendship, and opportunities for mutual learning

HACKETTSTOWN, NJ (Warren County) — Centenary University was the venue for a recent music lesson from a talented group of singers with disabilities who tour northwestern New Jersey to share their love of music, forge friendships, and teach important lessons about inclusion and belonging.

The Rockstars, a choir based at Abilities of Northwest Jersey Inc., performed at the University’s David and Carol Lakeland Center as part of a partnership between the two organizations.

The performance—a combination music lesson led by The Rockstars and singalong with Centenary students—was attended by Advanced Composition students taught by Assistant Professor of English Carol Barnett, D.L. The event furthered the University’s service learning initiative to foster experiential learning opportunities that promote a culture of service. Centenary students have been collaborating with participants in the Abilities of Northwest Jersey Inc. day program since last January.

“This partnership is a wonderful way for Centenary students and Abilities participants to learn about inclusion and belonging from each other,” said Dr. Barnett. “As part of Centenary’s service learning initiative, our students first created video content introducing themselves to their counterparts at Abilities of Northwest Jersey Inc. Then, we held a shared virtual class, which was a very positive experience for all. The Rockstars’ visit to Centenary was a wonderful opportunity for everyone to finally meet face-to-face.”

Directed by Abilities of Northwest Jersey Inc. Music and Art Coordinator Patricia Evans, the choir empowers its members to share their musical talents with the local community at hospitals, assisted living facilities, and other venues. The Rockstars accept members with all levels of ability and participation. “It has nothing to do with whether a person can sing,” Evans told a reporter with Inside Warren last year. “Some in the choir are nonverbal. One person can’t say any words, but he makes sounds. His phrasing is perfect…I make sure to connect with every single person every time I see them. Everybody is a part of the choir.”

At the conclusion of the event, Centenary University President Bruce Murphy, Ed.D., presented Abilities CEO Cindy Wildermuth and Evans with his presidential challenge coin in recognition of The Rockstars’ exemplary service to their local community.

Jay Edwards

Born and raised in Northwest NJ, Jay has a degree in Communications and has had a life-long interest in local radio and various styles of music. Jay has held numerous jobs over the years such as stunt car driver, bartender, voice-over artist, traffic reporter (award winning), NY Yankee maintenance crewmember and peanut farm worker. His hobbies include mountain climbing, snowmobiling, cooking, performing stand-up comedy and he is an avid squirrel watcher. Jay has been a guest on America’s Morning Headquarters,program on The Weather Channel, and was interviewed by Sam Champion.

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