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Carlstadt Musician Rocks Out With Special Needs Children

Sean Yocum (right) works with a young guitarist/vocalist.
Sean Yocum (right) works with a young guitarist/vocalist. Photo Credit: COURTESY: Rock Out Loud
A student learns to play a chord.
A student learns to play a chord. Photo Credit: COURTESY: Rock Out Loud
Sean Yocum and some of his students.
Sean Yocum and some of his students. Photo Credit: COURTESY: Rock Out Loud
Slapping the bass.
Slapping the bass. Photo Credit: COURTESY: Rock Out Loud
"Sing us a song, you're the piano man..."
"Sing us a song, you're the piano man..." Photo Credit: COURTESY: Rock Out Loud
Sean Yocum (right) has been a musician for 18 years. His father, Jack (left), is the drummer for The Nerds.
Sean Yocum (right) has been a musician for 18 years. His father, Jack (left), is the drummer for The Nerds. Photo Credit: COURTESY: Rock Out Loud

CARLSTADT, N.J.– Rock Out Loud was created by Carlstadt native Sean Yocum as a way to combine his love of music and his desire to help special needs children and adults.

"The concept was designed to give individuals in the special needs community the opportunity to be exposed to creating music, and the social feeling playing music in a band," said Yocum, 30, of Garfield.

Yocum has been a musician for 18 years and his father, Jack – aka Biff – is the drummer of popular cover band The Nerds .

Both the elder Yocum and keyboardist/vocalist Mike Spiro – aka Mongo – are active in the program.

There are also volunteers – ranging from teachers to paraprofessionals, to professional and amateur musicians – lending a hand, Yocum, the program director, said.

Rock Out Loud partnered with three special needs organizations – Lyndhurst-based Special Angels Recreation, Wayne-based Autism Radio and Song Birds Gift – to offer after-school programs in three locations:

  • Tuesdays at Cornerstone Music Studios at Millstone East, 6:15 p.m.
  • Wednesdays at the Lyndhurst Senior Building, 250 Cleveland Ave., 6:30 p.m.
  • Thursdays at the Wayne Health Building, 475 Valley Road Room 2, 7 p.m. (under 12) and 7:30 p.m. (13 and older).

"The biggest and most rewarding breakthroughs which we see during our program range from children singing full songs, or even playing exact parts to the songs we are performing," said Yocum, an instructor at Garden Academy , a special needs school. "We also see many sensory break throughs with tolerating loud noises or just being able to hold a guitar and stand.

"Music, although being an abstract art, is also very concrete and involves patterns that are predictable," he added. "I think that element allows them to feel like they are a part of something. Also, music is a universal language that we all can understand and use to communicate emotions. I think music allows them the opportunity to express themselves as individuals in form in which we can understand as a whole."

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