Every Mind is Musical at this Mercer Island Music Studio

June 13, 2022 | by Catherine Lenox

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Photo by Ashley Brooke Twomey

A grand piano sits under a window overlooking a wooded glen at Connie Wible’s Mercer Island home, and a harp sits amid the overstuffed furniture, but many of her young students gravitate toward the higher-tech Yamaha Clavinova CVP digital piano. Wible demonstrates the sounds from each instrument, but lets the students at Musical Mind Music Studios direct sessions, which often leads to the Clavinova’s 3,000 sounds.

The performing artist, piano teacher, and composer works with 45 students in her home studio and online, specializing as a neurodiverse adaptive piano consultant. Wible began teaching piano in the 1980s and has worked with children and adults who have neurological issues for the past 25 years, including developing an adaptive program called “Piano Keys for Autism.”

Photo by Ashley Brooke Twomey

“I used to be a traditional piano teacher, but honoring the unique person and adapting to them fascinates me,” says Wible. So, she started running her entire house as a Music House. “I want students to come in and feel as though they are in a safe space.”

Three of Wible’s own four children were diagnosed with learning disabilities, which inspired the focus of her instruction and particularly drew her to work with autistic children.

Wible uses active observation, intuition, and a calm mind to personalize her instruction. “Starting a dialogue of communication is not the same with every student,” she says, and it typically doesn’t use words. “I ask the universe, ‘What can I do to instill joy and help the musical experience come alive in this person?’” Each answer she gets is different.

Wible starts by showing students instruments, like the Clavinova. It is always in tune, and Wible has a vast catalog of music with backing tracks. As time goes on, she gently takes turns until the student is ready to have more instruction. 

Photo by Ashley Brooke Twomey

She uses a midi-recorded feature on her digital piano, which allows someone with tactile, visual, or neuro issues to play any note, and it will sound like the right note. “It engages them in the music,” she explains. After 20 minutes of interacting with the music, she sees students become calmer, happier, more verbal, and listen better. Parents tell her this “Vitamin M” stays in their children’s systems for two to three days. “Children and adults have a sense of accomplishment that they can make the music they want to hear,” says Wible. “It is life-changing.”

With senior adults, Wible starts with sound therapy, and then introduces tactile therapy to encourage them to move their fingers. “Even if they cannot play, they can listen and do sweeping body movements in their armchair,” she explains. She also makes them playlists of music that brings them joy.

Beyond her own studio, Wible founded and directed the Mercer Island Music Technology Camps, which ran for 15 years, sponsored by the City of Mercer Island, and was twice honored as an outstanding citizen of the year.

Lately, she has had unprecedented requests for teaching. But despite feeling stretched thin, Wible says she will always find room for autistic children because she knows what music unlocks in them. “In looking at what is most valuable to me in my profession, it is the power of music. I will do anything to bring that to people.”

Find more information about Connie Wible and her studio at www.mercerislandmusic.com.