Aaron Lightstone — Music Director
Aaron Lightstone, MMT, RP, MTA, NMT-F is the founder and director of Music Therapy Toronto, a busy clinical practice which specializes in the rehabilitation of neurologic injury and disease. He is an award-winning music therapist, musician, composer, educator and researcher. Aaron holds Master of Music Therapy and Bachelor of Music Therapy degrees from the faculty of Music at Wildfrid Laurier University where he is occasionally enlisted as part-time faculty member (in the faculty of music and the faculty of graduate studies).
He has been performing on oud, guitar, and related instruments in performances and recordings for over 2 decades and best known as the founder and bandleader of the world music group JAFFA ROAD. Under Aaron’s leadership JAFFA ROAD has been recognized with a Canadian Folk Music Award, two JUNO award nominations as well as many other awards, artist grants and accolades.
Aaron has always had a strong interest in the music of many different cultures. This interest has lead to study and performance experience in Sephardic and Arabic music, classical guitar, jazz, classical Indian music, blues, and others. In the late 1990s Aaron spent a year living on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia where he conducted original Ethnomusicology research on the island’s unique, Indigenous folk music. His Master’s research focused on the therapeutic value of creating original rap and Hip Hop in Toronto’s Homeless shelters. He has performed and recorded with such artists as Eccodek, Ventanas, Aviva Chernick, Mark Weinstock, Noam Katz, Yair Dalal, Aaron Bensoussan, the Lemon Bucket Orchestra and others.
Aaron’s writings have been published in The Journal of Arts and Health, Canadian Musician Magazine, and he has contributed chapters to several Music Therapy text books.
Aaron has a long standing interest in how innovative use of music related technologies can make music making available and accessible to diverse groups of people. He has been directing the iBand since the second year of the band in 2015.
Shirley McNaughton — Founding Co- Director
Shirley McNaughton, C.M., Ph.D. is a special educator who has been teaching, first children and then adults with cerebral palsy since 1968.
In 1971, as a member of an interdisciplinary team, she discovered and applied the language of Blissymbolics to the communication programs of children who were nonspeaking. The program was emulated around the world and Shirley led the work that resulted in the founding of Blissymbolics Communication International in 1975. She was the founding president of the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (1983-86) and received the Order of Canada in 1989 for her work with persons with disabilities.
Since her retirement from the role of Executive Director of Blissymbolics Communication International in 1989, she has continued, as a volunteer, supporting the literacy and communication endeavours of adults who remain Bliss users or who are now Bliss Alumni refining their use of English print.
Shirley was a founding member of the Board of Directors of the Blissymbolics Learning Centre in 2001 and guided the Blissymbolics and Literacy program of the Centre from 2002-2006. In 2007, she completed a web-based instructional program called Bliss 101. Following the closing of the Centre, she gave direction to two literacy related projects supported by the Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy.
Throughout Shirley’s life, music has played an important role. She began teaching piano and accompanying choirs beginning in her pre-teens and extended this interest into her retirement years. She received her ARCT in piano performance in 1950 from the Royal Conservatory of Music. In 1962 she added the teaching of Carl Orff “Music for Children” and playing recorder to her music activities.
In the last decade, Shirley has taught seniors in Guelph and Toronto to use Orff instruments for ensemble playing. This led to the exploring of i-Pads with seniors in Florida and Toronto. In 2014, Shirley extended the use of i-Pads to adults with disabilities, and served as music director in Year One to the Bliss i-Band, which she co-founded with Audrey King. The i-Band has as members, Bliss alumni and their friends, all of whom are able to participate for the first time in ensemble music playing. Shirley continues her involvement in the i-Band, now under the direction of Aaron Lightstone, as a participant in the ensemble. She currently serves on the Board of Blissymbolics Communication International, and serves as Chair, Blissymbolics Communication Institute - Canada.
Audrey King — Co-Founder
Audrey King M.A. is a writer, advocate and educator on disability issues. She has served on many boards and advisory committees over the years, including the Ontario March of Dimes, the Ontario Advisory Committee on the Physically Handicapped, the Ontario Assistive Devices Program Advisory Committee, the Metropolitan Toronto District Health Council, the Advisory Committee developing Ontario’s PSW Curriculum and the Centre for Independent Living, Toronto.
She is a published author of two books and many articles and is internationally recognized as a writer and speaker on many issues related to community living with severe disability.
Audrey is retired from a 30 year professional career as a psychologist at Hugh MacMillan Rehabilitation Centre and has many years of experience with children and teens affected by cerebral palsy. In 2014 she co-founded with Shirly McNaughton the Bliss I-Band for individuals with severe cerebral palsy. Audrey is currently is a board member of CDAC (Communication Disabilities Across Canada).
Audrey’s life’s work has always been “consumer” focused as she continues to espouse the view that healing, not harm, arises from collaborative relationships . . . where the views and expertise of those receiving service are really understood.
27 year old Samantha Millar is the i-band's pianist/organist, using Garageband on her i-pad to play chords and solos with the group. She is an old-soul, and most enjoys pop classics like the Backstreet Boys. Her favourite musical memory is seeing the 2013 American Idol concert tour in Toronto with her younger sister, Jayme.
Though she lives in Newmarket, Ontario, her family has a cottage several hours away in Brighton, where she enjoys driving the pontoon boat with her dad. That's right - Samantha holds her own boating license. When it comes to after-boating treats, Sam is definitely a vanilla ice-cream girl! On the long drives to the cottage, the family started listening to audiobooks together, and now Samantha considers herself a lover of all types of romance novels, which she listens to with her Grandma and mom, Julie.
Samantha uses a complicated computer system called "Tobi Communicator", which is controlled by 2 proximity switches on her headrest, to select pre-made sentences, type words, and show pictures from her media folder. She uses the "step scanning" function, which means that her left headrest scans through options, and leaning to the right selects one. When she was younger, she briefly learned the written "Blissymbolics" language, and has fond memories of the Bliss camp in Bala, Ontario. It takes a lot of energy to communicate, but is a fantastic way for her to share memories, negotiate which audiobook to listen to today, and tell us all about herself!
30 year old Gabriel Ly lives in Scarborough, Toronto. He has lived in smaller towns in Ontario, but really likes the big city, where he can find his favourite food - Chinese Dim Sum! It makes sense, of course, that his favourite hockey team would be the Toronto Maple Leafs! Gabriel played on a hockey team in high school, but loves watching it on TV nowadays. He joined the i-Band through drama club, which several of the band members are part of, and remembers "Pass the Magic Ball" as his favourite activity. He also helped the drama club by playing music for their productions.
Gabriel has a great musical ear, and enjoys playing the organ in particular, which he uses for the i-Band's arrangement of "Hotel California". His performances on the i-pad 'erhu' have also been well enjoyed by the group. Last Christmas, he went out of his comfort zone to play at a local shopping centre, using a 'holiday bells' program on his i-Pad! When he's listening to music, Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley are his favourites... the oldies!
Gabriel can speak out-loud to communicate, but prefers typing through email... it's a bit easier for him! He used to use voice-output software, but currently communicates using a Bluetooth enabled joystick and selection button that pans over an on-screen keyboard. Once his message is typed, someone can read it, or Gabriel will save it to a file and email it!
Under construction - please check back soon!
Carolyn Henry lives in North York, Ontario, where she volunteers weekly at the general hospital and the children's centre helping with filing, orientation for new volunteers, and tours. She provides insight to others on how to communicate with the non-verbal children there, and offers this advice: "Don't put words in their mouths or try to read their minds." Never under-estimate what they can do, feel, or say!
Carolyn is originally from a small town in Eastern Ontario but moved to Toronto in her youth in order to go to a school for the disabled, which was a positive learning experience for her. In her younger years, she learned "Bliss Symbolics", a fully grammatical language of symbols, and now uses text-output software to type in English.
Carolyn types words and phrases into her "Toughpad" computer using a mouse connected to her electric wheelchair, and plays instruments on her i-pad using a hand-held stylus. She also shares lots of gestures and some spoken words to help others understand her. When it comes to music, she likes the simple songs - just a singer with an instrument is her style!
Outside of her volunteer work, Carolyn adores travelling with her sister Glynis, and has gone on many, many trips and cruises - to London, Paris, and the Mediterranean. While she is vacationing, she loves to go for walks in the cities.
Irene Kraus lives in Etobicoke, Toronto, where she would (in pre-COVID times) often go to the mall and enjoy her favourites - chili and Chinese food - there. If we're talking about more extensive trips, Niagara Falls is a favourite on the list of places she has traveled with her parents. She loves sports, especially soccer, and also belonged to a drama club, where she both acted and provided musical accompaniment - and where she was first introduced to the i-Band 5 years ago!
When it comes to music, it seems that Irene loves it all. Wednesday (i-Band day) is her favourite day of the week, and no way is she going to miss it for anything! Her favourite band is the Backstreet Boys (something she shares in common with another i-Band member!), and she has been to all of their concerts in Toronto... wow. She doesn't like sad music though, only happy songs, and so it makes sense that her favourite one is "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)"! Thanks to her parents' preferences, she also likes Neil Diamond, as well as some Jamaican and Ukrainian style music.
Because Irene's cerebral palsy keeps her from moving her feet and hands, she controls her wheelchair, computer, and cell phone through 4 different head switches. These days, she uses the computer and phone much more, spending her time almost every day on zoom calls with various social groups. She also uses the computer to communicate when others can't understand her speech, but she prefers to talk out-loud, and does so often, driving her parents "nuts"!
Rebecca Chan is the i-band's Technology Coordinator, and has been involved with the group as a facilitator since their beginning in 2014. She lives in a bustling cosmopolitan area of Toronto, and doesn't drive, instead taking the hour-long trip on public transit, even biking across the city to get to "the highlight of her week", Wednesday's i-band session! During our COVID-19 online adaptation, Rebecca's job includes a lot less travel, but lots of guiding i-band participants and helpers around new technologies like Zoom!
Though Rebecca wouldn't be so generous as to call herself a musician, she has done her fair share of music playing and enjoyment. Growing up with 4 other siblings, she learned to play the organ when her father bought one and negotiated lessons for his daughters. Though she feels most strongly toward 60s and 70s folk, particularly protest songs, she fondly imagines being able to sit down at the piano and entertain a room with classical pieces, show-tunes, ragtime... you name it! Recently, she's picked her piano practice back up, and has been enjoying reconnecting with that dream!
As a Chinese speaker, Rebecca is also intrigued by language, and particularly in the connection between Blissymbolics and the inspiration it takes from Chinese characters. Alongside her work with the Bliss Archives, she wants to write a blog post on this connection with the help of her father, who writes frequently in the Chinese language... Keep your eyes out for that on our website!
22 year old Jessica Jurgenliemk is the i-band's resident music therapy intern. She finished her Bachelor of Music Therapy in Nova Scotia, and has moved to the Ottawa valley this year. Even though the i-band traditionally meets in Toronto, she is able to join their online rehearsals each week as part of her internship! During rehearsals, she sometimes helps to lead songs or practice soloing with individual members in breakout rooms.
Jessica has also been interviewing each i-band member to get to know them each more individually, and has really enjoyed learning more about them as she writes the biographies that you can see right here on the website! In particular, she finds the different communication technologies fascinating, and is amazed by the patience of all the group members, who wait for sound checks, typed messages, and their turn to play. Maybe all of us who are busy-busy and prone to rushing around could learn a thing or two!
As a musician herself, Jessica adores singing, and plays piano and guitar. She has also been trying to learn the cello, which is so difficult, but very beautiful! She loves teaching music, which she started doing during the pandemic, as well as song-writing and sunshine.