An Interview with Mr. Anantawan about the MI Program


Tell me about the MI Program. What is it?

The MI Program is short for Music Inclusion program, and it’s an initiative that we started here in partnership with Milton and an inclusion school in Dorchester called the Henderson Inclusion School. The idea is that we’re creating an orchestral educative model for [everyone, including] kids who have disabilities. We have about 17 recruits; half of them don’t have a disability, and the other half have a range of disabilities. These are first and second graders. The idea is that we’ll meet three times a week, one of which is a private lesson for every student. The other is a small group lesson or sectional, and the third time is a big orchestra. We’re using volunteers from Milton’s program here, anyone who plays an instrument, to be able to either play with the students or help them learn musical notation or just be there to support them if they have any specific needs in relation to their disability. We don’t really know how it’s going to unfold in terms of pedagogy and curriculum, but eventually, as we get to understand our students more, we’re going to make good music together and hopefully have them over here at one of the Milton concerts to make them feel like it’s a bigger orchestra than just the program that they have there after school.

Why did you decide to start this program?
It’s been a big mission of mine to be able to increase accessibility for kids with disabilities. I grew up with a disability myself, and music was one of those things that allowed me to feel like I was fully human in a way that was different than how I looked, because in music, it’s how you sound. Specifically with an orchestra, it’s how much you contribute to the larger picture, rather than just you alone, so I think that those were all important things to me personally in my life, and I want to be able to help students have the same experiences, to pursue that in their lives. 

You got into music when you were young, and you’ve been doing it ever since?

Yes, I was ten years old, and I like to say that our teacher started with recorder, but it wasn’t something that I could play because I didn’t have enough fingers, so my parents looked into the trumpet, but it was too loud. We looked into singing, but I didn’t have a very good voice, so the violin was the one I chose because it was the most beautiful sounding instrument, and we found an adaptation after the fact. We were just very lucky to have good people around to encourage me and educate me to be able to do this professionally now.

That’s a really great support system to have. Could you tell me more about how music affects your life and how you hope it’ll affect the students at the Henderson School?

I think music is a way of thinking that helps you explore the world. It helps you settle your mind if a lot of things are happening. It’s something that for me is the language in which I have been able to pursue my personal excellence in life. It’s something where it’s as much about what’s happening cognitively, emotionally, physically. It just keeps you happy in the struggle and in the triumphs as well, so those are all things that I think are transferable for all of us in music, and hopefully for these kids at the Henderson too.

Do you have any other ways that students can get involved with this goal in their own communities?

There are plenty of musicians here doing work around community and music. Within our courses, we have the music package with a community service component if you want to do that. There are nonprofit organizations that are started by students, I know an art nonprofit that sells art to be able to give supplies to inner city schools. There’s an equivalent program called the Vibe Program started by a senior here last year to give concerts to raise money for musical instruments for kids around Boston, and then just understanding that as a musician, you have tremendous power to shed light and draw attention to issues that might be important to you. That may not necessarily be music itself, it could be how music presents in climate protests, or something that helps you unpack the world in your personal lens of how you see things. Everything is interconnected.

Mark Pang