Helping Hands – The Know Obstacles Project

Intentional Communities of Washtenaw – Ann Arbor (ICW) was started in 2005 by a small group of families looking to team up and provide their adult children with disabilities with housing, support, and opportunities to help them transform into independent adults.  Each resident lives in his or her own apartment in one of the two communities.

The concept of transformation is at the heart of Know Obstacles, a band whose members are all young adults facing physical and social challenges.  Using the acronym H.O.M.E. (Hands-On Meaningful Expressions), Steve “Oz” Osburn encourages his students to share music in order to facilitate personal growth and social bonds.  He relates to us that a seven year old autistic boy walked into his studio over a decade ago.  With the support of ICW families, this interaction inspired him to start a group for disabled kids.

Scott, one of the parents, explains, “Steve studied the Montessori method…Kids essentially try out a variety of instruments.  The kids tended to gravitate to what they were most interested in and as a result were usually the most successful in over time.”  Scott’s daughter, Lauren, has Aspberger’s, but she’s extremely high-functioning, smart, and fiercely independent.  “She, like the other band members, connects with music more than any other avenue.”  Know Obstacles gives the kids the opportunity to be creative and outgoing; they initially performed on stage at Oz’s Music Experience.  Performing in front of their families demystified being in the spotlight and strengthened their confidence.  Through their new project, recording a CD (sponsored by ICW), some of the challenges presented by differing intellectual abilities have been conquered.

The KO-Project has already logged about twenty hours of studio time recording at Sage Court Studios and Big Sky Studios.  Several locally-renowned musicians and engineers have assisted, many dropping their usual fee, so the group could share a real recording experience.  Of the KO-Project CD, Steve Osburn says, “the sound is already exceeding my expectations!”

Every band needs a mixture of instruments and Know Obstacles is no different. David Ziff, a co-founder of the band, started with the bass guitar but has since transitioned to electric guitar.  His demeanor tends to be more reserved and quiet, but he opens up when he listens to or plays jazz. Dylan has cerebral palsy, but lives to rock!  He’d love nothing more than to go out on tour and play rock and roll for a living.  Ashley plays a variety of instruments including the piano and electric guitar, and shares singing responsibilities with  Lauren, plus Megan and Kelli, two recent recruits. The band plays a variety of music well.  Ashley and Lauren like a wide variety of genres, though Lauren’s surprisingly soulful voice is perfect for the blues. Megan loves anything up tempo!

Spring 2013 is the targeted release date for KO-Project’s debut CD, and Audiogon is excited to provide online sales support.  In the meantime,  you can check out ICW’s homepage to read more about the community and how you can help.

Audiogon would like to thank Dick Carlisle for shedding light on this great project!

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