GiGi’s Playhouse Fort Wayne Awarded the Gilmore Inclusive Arts Grant

Grant from the AWS Foundation will help launch a new music program for individuals with disabilities

AWS Foundation has awarded the Gilmore Inclusive Arts Grant to GiGi’s Playhouse Fort Wayne for a new music program utilizing the Skoog instrument. The new initiative, GiGi’s Music: Skoog Lab, will create an inclusive music program to enrich the lives of individuals with disabilities by making music more accessible with the Skoog, a squishy cube that connects to a computer or iPad and pairs with music-making software.

“AWS Foundation is delighted to award the Gilmore Inclusive Arts Grant to launch the Skoog Lab,” said Patti Hays, CEO of AWS Foundation. “Each of us has experienced the power of music in our life. It spurs our imagination, helps us express emotion, and can bring people of all abilities together.” She goes on to say that making music can also have a positive effect on physical health, making this new music program an excellent opportunity for people with varied needs.

The Skoog allows students to produce “errorless” music. Color-coded buttons make the device more accessible for those that learn visually, and its tactile musical interface encourages experimentation with the instrument.

“For many people, conventional musical instruments are difficult to learn, and traditional methods of teaching music are overly complex and convoluted,” said Mandy Drakeford, GiGi’s Playhouse Fort Wayne Executive Director. “The Skoog will allow individuals with intellectual disabilities to better participate in the creation of music with their peers. We are so grateful for AWS Foundation’s investment in helping individuals with disabilities create music.”

The first phase program will launch in January with one-on-one lessons of the Skoog led by Dave Nelson from a Cat in a Dog’s World, an organization aiding and educating families about autistic spectrum disorders. Nelson brings nearly 50 years of professional music experience and 20 years of experience working alongside individuals with special needs. The second phase will bring students together to play music together.

In addition to learning how to play music, the Skoog program will enrich the lives of students far beyond music-making with lessons in life skills, too. The first phase of the program teaches students to learn the Skoog and critical life skills, such as decision-making, concentration, independence and confidence. In phases two and three, the music lab becomes more group-focused, and the programming shifts towards fostering collaboration and interaction between students. Skills gained from the group setting include cooperation, teamwork, communication, sympathetic engagement and social interaction.

To sign up for GiGi’s Music: Skoog Lab, visit or call GiGi’s Playhouse Fort Wayne at 260-482-7529.

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