Ten years ago, Bernadette Bascom, an accomplished singer and teacher living in the Bothell area, started something called the Music Project. It was and is a natural extension of Bascom’s own musical talent and unique passion for kids.
The program first launched at the Secondary Academy for Success in Bothell, where Bascom trained students in performance and vocal skills. Eventually she expanded the program to include the Northshore Wranglers, a group dedicated to providing activities, socialization, and other kinds of support to people of all ages with developmental disabilities.
Last year, the Music Project expanded again, this time to the Northshore School District. During the 2015 school year, Bascom taught at Skyview Junior High.
This year, she’s bringing her talents to Woodmoor Elementary School, where she teaches three days a week during school hours.
Bascom said Woodmoor’s principal, Angela Kerr, and vice principal, Heidi Peltier, were both instrumental in kicking off the program at the school.
The Music Project is inclusive, meaning that the classes reach both special needs and non-special needs students.
According to Bascom, music is a great equalizer for her students. Her goal is for both communities, special needs and non-special needs, to embrace one another at a young age. “They both kind of stay away from each other, assuming they don’t fit, but that’s not true,” she said.
Aside from the vocal and performing skills Bascom teaches, she also encourages confidence, communication and self-esteem in all of her students.
“It’s a way to influence them to express themselves,” she said. “You would not believe the energy that passes back and forth between them.”
Sometimes, she said, an act of kindness shown by one student to another overwhelms her so much that she has to step out of the room.
“It’s an amazing program,” she said. “It’s surreal what comes out of this.”
At the end of each Music Project year, the students put on a concert to display their developing singing skills and newfound confidence. Bascom sings along with her students during the concert, and also invites some of her musically inclined, superstar friends to join in.
Last year’s Skyview concert saw about 700 guests on a Monday night. “It blew everybody out of the water,” Bascom said. “It was such a beautiful evening.”
Although the Music Project has grown exponentially over the years, Bascom still has much bigger dreams for the future of the program.
She said she hopes to acquire funding to educate other teachers in order to broaden the program to reach more students all across the country.
There are only two major requirements for teachers who want to get involved, Bascom said. First, they must love music, and second, they must love kids.
It’s clear from Bascom’s decades-long career in singing and in education that she herself more than fulfills both of those requirements. When she speaks about her students, her enthusiasm is palpable.
“Any real singer, that’s what they do this for, to touch people’s hearts and to know that their music mattered to somebody,” she said.
Aside from her work with the Music Project, Bascom also teaches performance and voice at Northwest University in Kirkland.
Her own musical accomplishments make up a long and storied list. A longtime friend of Stevie Wonder, Bascom actually signed with his record label for a time. She’s also performed with groups like The People’s Choice, Epicentre and Acapulco Gold.
A documentary called “Bernadette’s Touch,” produced by KING 5, John Sharify and Douglas Burgess, won an Emmy in 2013.
Bothell’s McMenamins Anderson School dedicated one of their hotel rooms to Bascom, complete with a painted portrait of the singer. “I cried when I saw it,” she said.
There’s no shortage of gratitude shown for what Bascom has done and continues to do for the local community, and there’s certainly no shortage of Bascom’s own tireless spirit or her eagerness to teach kids of all abilities.
“Blessings are reciprocal,” she said. “You get what you give. You just do.”
To find out more about the Music Project of Northshore or to make a donation, visit www.musicprojectnorthshore.org. Woodmoor’s end of the year concert will take place on May 22, 2017 at the Northshore Performing Arts Center.