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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ–On January 21, the Octopus Music School held their adult student showcase at The Alfa Art Gallery at 108 Church Street.
The music school hosts annual performances twice a year, but is trying to increase the frequency of its live performances to bimonthly.
“The goal is to grant more opportunity to play live music and to be proactive and playing,” said Joseph Fekete, a Rutgers graduate and founder of The Octopus Music School.
The school used to hold annual events at Tumulty’s before that establishment was sold, and has since been looking for different venues to perform at throughout Hub City.
The Hidden Grounds coffee shop, located at 4C Easton Avenue, is where the Children’s showcase performed the following day on January 22.
The unique school, located at 46 Bayard Street, has been around for about 8 years.
What sets this school apart is its attention to students with special needs, with about 50 students enrolled on the autism spectrum or some form of disability.
“What we offer is a way to participate regardless of age or skill level,” said Ariella Fekete, the special needs coordinator at the school.
“What makes us special is everyone is included. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel for structure or lessons, we just give everyone the gift of self-expression through music.”
As a Division of Developmental Disabilities service provider, Octopus offers one-on-one guitar and piano lessons geared towards individuals with special needs, taught by instructors who have years of experience working with the autism and developmental disability population.
For their special needs program, each lesson is focused and structured, but not strict, leaving room for students with special needs to have fun and explore self-expression.
The school also offers general lessons and does its best to make scheduling and payment as effortless as possible. It provides a standardized curriculum, while still leaving room for individual flexibility and creativity, for students of all skill levels.
“The comfort level at this music school is much better than other places I’ve tried,” spoke Rajat Choudhary, a student attending the night’s gala with his daughter.
“Their method of teaching is better than average. Joe totally understands and figures out not only techniques that work for you but also what is holding you back. He knows how to recognize talent.”
The Octopus Music School has recently doubled their footprint in New Brunswick, and opened a location in Hillsborough.
When asked about what qualities make the school so special, Fekete mentioned his fantastic teachers, and that the school diligently hires its staff, and offers long-term incentives to retain educators who love teaching music.
“I taught piano for several years but in here, I learned to teach more instruments for general students,” said Jessica Del Rosario, the Piano and general music instructor that runs the children’s after school program, “I love fostering this love for music.”
Similarly, those sentiments were mutually felt by most of the teachers interviewed that evening, which offered an environment of care and appreciation for live musical performance – with several students showcasing their talents.
Aditya Jaishankar, a fellow guitar student, had covered the song “Tangerine” by Led Zeppelin, to a silent crowd that was both attentive and in tune to every strum of his guitar.
Another student had difficulties performing his cover of “Teenage Dirtbag” by Ween, and had to stop early into his performance, but the crowd was nevertheless supportive.
“What sets Octopus Music apart, is there is no pretentiousness or ego. It’s just people having a good time and wanting to play,” spoke Ray Schwab, a guitar teacher and the ensemble coordinator at the Octopus Music School.
He mentioned that Octopus Music is putting effort into expanding on their ensemble program and chamber groups this year, focusing with longtime students on working and playing together.
“Tonight is a night of relaxation to play free,” continued Schwab, before he was called up to play with his students’ ensemble.
The last student performance of the night ended with the ensemble group, Los Titos, a group of students who did not know each other beforehand, but had been meet one hour a week leading up to the event.
As the night ended, a series of attendees sipped wine in the back, while a cluster of students grooved in the middle of the room.
There was music surrounded by art and warm lighting, with quaint woos of enthusiasm embellishing the air and even Los Titos’ cover of Radiohead’s “Karma Police,” with its final refrain repeated by everyone in the room: “For a minute there, I Lost myself, I lost myself…”
Students at the Octopus Music School will be having their Spring Recital at the George Street Playhouse.