Gergana Agrigova is the founder of London Music Box, an award-winning music tuition school for mainstream students on those on the autism spectrum, learning in one inclusive and supporting environment.
Her aim to bring together mainstream students and people on the autism spectrum without labelling and division, as well as to smash the stigma and dispel the myth that ASD (autism spectrum disorder) students are not as normal as ‘normal’ other people are.
Ultimately, their mission is to educate society that people should not be dismissed solely because they are on the autism spectrum.
Gergana is originally from Bulgaria. She graduated from the National Academy of Music in Bulgaria where she studies Piano Performance and received a full scholarship at the University of Denver to her bachelor’s degree. They’ve also awarded her with a full scholarship to stay and do her master’s degree there in Piano Performance and Music Education.
She moved to the UK after she was accepted at the University of Cambridge to do a Doctorate degree. Instead of that, she decided to launched London Music Box, which has been running since 2013.
The beginnings of London Music Box
A mother of an ASD child got in touch with Gergana asking whether she would be willing to teach her son, as she couldn’t find someone that was accepting of him and wanted to teach him. After a bit of research, she found out that there wasn’t a school or a service like this where they will openly accept (and be proud of it) ASD students. I realised that she can change this as Gergana believe everyone has the right to play and make music.
Gergana started London Music Box as she wanted to expose more mainstream students to ASD students so they can learn in one inclusive and supportive environment and teach society that people shouldn’t be dismissed solely because they are on the ASD spectrum.
What services do they offer?
They offer one-to-one music tuition for mainstream and ASD students in all instruments including voice. The lessons are held either in one of their central London studios or as home visits. They found that the most popular instruments are piano, guitar, violin and voice, and try to concentrate on them. Along with regular music tuition, they also prepare students for ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music) exams.
What makes London Music Box different?
They are very proud of their work with ASD students, as well as their events and socials throughout the year. London Music Box has several themed concerts each year which are accompanied by socials afterwards. For example, their Christmas concert was so much fun and they went to a pizza-making workshop afterwards with all the kids.
Because of their frequent performance opportunities, you see the students grow in confidence, as well as musicians.
The fun and social aspect of things is of course there, so the children make new friends along the way and obviously the benefit of doing music – we all know how beneficial it is not only for ASD but also for mainstream students.
What mainstream students need to know about ASD students
London Music Box wants society to understand that difference between mainstream and ASD students and why ASD people are the way they are, behave and do the things they do – and not to feel uneasy about them when they are around.
We all know the positive effects of music, which is particularly helpful for ASD students, as it is often a way of expression, an outlet for them especially if they are non-verbal. It is important to expose kids to different types of music each day, whether it’s having something on the background at mealtime or taking them to a show.
There are lots of music games you can do at home- from ‘’musical statues’, ‘musical chairs’ to clapping and tapping games which a variety of rhythms.
Gergana would love to see London Music Box reach more people through music, not only in London but in other cities in the UK and in other countries as well. Another goal is to spread awareness about autism and get as many ASD people to try music and explore their own full potential.
Image credit: Women’s Radio Station
Dr Anna Kennedy OBE is an educator who has worked to provide an improved education and other facilities for children with autism spectrum disorders.