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Music Camp for Children With Disabilities

George Casselberry had never played a single note on a harmonica before he came to the Woodlands Foundation’s music camp. But that didn’t stop him from trying. That was ten years ago. Today, George writes music and lyrics, performs his compositions on stage, and teaches others how to play.  Born with cerebral palsy as well as limited vision and mobility, George is just one of hundreds of children with special needs who have experienced the joy of music at the Woodlands Foundation’s annual “Notes from the Heart” music camp over the past ten years. 

The camp, for children ages 8-18 with disability or chronic illness, will be held July 12 – 17, 2009, and boasts a stellar line-up of world-class musicians, conductors and artists who volunteer their time to perform and teach the campers to sing, appreciate music, compose musical scores and play instruments. 

In the ten years since the camp’s inception, world-renowned musical greats such as violinist and conductor Pinchas Zuckerman, pianist Yefim Bronfman, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Concertmaster Andres Cardenes, and numerous members of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra have all donated their time and talents at the Woodlands. The faculty roster for the camp is just as impressive. Edward Cumming, music director of the Hartford Symphony; Andrew Clark, artistic director of the Providence Singers and Worcester Chorus in New England; Lucas Richman, music director and conductor for the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra; Lilly Abreu, one of Brazil’s most versatile singers and faculty member at Carnegie Mellon University; and Marylou Monich Bushyager, Pittsburgh Public School Music Teacher and vocal/instrumental coach, reserve a week out of their busy schedule to teach at the camp each summer.  

To mark the camp’s 10th anniversary, some very special activities are planned including a kick-off  picnic on Sunday, July 12, and performances throughout the week by the Pittsburgh Opera Improv, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Winds, Lilly Abreu and Salsamba, PSO Concertmaster Andres Cardenes, and members of the cast of the CLO’s production of Les Miserables.  

The residential camp accommodates 50 youngsters with varied disabilities who have an interest in music. Some like to sing, some play instruments, some try their hand at composing and still others just enjoy learning music appreciation and history. The week culminates with a public outdoor concert performed by the campers entitled “Bringing Out the Stars.” Charles Gray, executive director emeritus of the Pittsburgh CLO, is the concert’s producer. 

The Woodlands is a nonprofit organization dedicated to enriching the lives of people with disability and chronic illness. Programs include year-round retreats, summer camps, conferences and various other enrichment activities for people with special needs and the organizations that serve them. With its adaptive and accessible facilities, Woodlands programs enable participants to experience social, cultural, environmental, recreational and spiritual growth. The profound power of the Woodlands is its ability to transform lives. 

For more information about the Woodlands call (724) 935-6533 or go to

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