It was a celebration in song in the days leading up to Remembrance Day, with music filling a room at Christine Meikle School in Calgary.
Music therapist Laurie Perez, who works with many of the school’s students with special needs, was strumming a guitar and singing a song.
“Poppies are special,” Perez sang. “Wear red poppies on Remembrance Day.”
Among Perez’s small audience was Melody-Anne Arbeau, a 17-year-old student at the school.
“Music is her life,” her mother Valerie Arbeau said.
For Melody-Anne, music provides many uplifting moments in a life that’s brought challenges since birth.
“Melody-Anne has cerebral palsy,” Arbeau said. “She’s non-verbal and she’s wheelchair-bound.”
But those challenges didn’t stop Melody-Anne from writing “Poppies Are Special,” the song Perez was playing.
She was able to create it by working on a specially-equipped laptop computer, alongside resource teacher Diane Hall.
“It was Melody-Anne’s choice to make a song about Remembrance Day,” Hall said. “It’s one of her favourite days.”
Along with writing the lyrics, Melody-Anne also created the melody for the song.
“Melody-Anne made choices about whether the music was going to go up or down,” Hall said. “Or how long the notes were.”
Seeing her daughter’s song come to life has been an amazing experience for Valerie Arbeau.
“It’s phenomenal!” Arbeau said. “I have always known that music was in her. We just didn’t know how we could get her to express it.”
Being part of Melody-Anne’s project is also a highlight for Perez.
“She has such a big heart,” Perez said. “And for her to be able to express it through music is so inspiring.”
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