New author strives to help students find their voice

Posted on 10 September 2014 by admin

Meramec student publishes book to ‘inspire people to use music as a form of exercise therapy’

Meramec student Amy Shapiro displays the book she published. The book “The Music That Gave Me A Voice” details her struggle with learning disabilities and how music helped her cope. PHOTO | DAVID KLOECKENER

Meramec student Amy Shapiro displays the book she published. The book “The Music That Gave Me A Voice” details her struggle with learning disabilities and how music helped her cope. PHOTO | DAVID KLOECKENER

Staff Writer

Amy Shapiro is proactive. When she speaks, her passion for her cause can be recognized in her voice.

As a student who has struggled with learning disabilities for most of her life, she said she understands the incredibly burdening academic obstacles that some students face when they try to pursue an education. For many years, feelings of defeat and frustration interfered with her studies, she said. It was not until high school when she joined the choir that she found the confidence she needed to keep working toward her goals.

Now, years later, Shapiro has written her own book which she said she hopes will inspire people to use music as a form of exercise therapy.

When asked about the struggles that came with her learning disabilities, she took a moment to reflect. “I was born with a brain tumor that caused me to have epilepsy. It [the tumor] was removed when I was three…I’ve been called names,” Shapiro said.

Through her book, Shapiro wrote frequently about how her struggle affected her, and how she felt while being teased. It left her with a self doubt that she carried until her music studies helped her find assurance.

As for her involvement in music, Shapiro does not really feel like she “discovered” it.

“I always had an interest [in music]. I grew up with music,” Shapiro said, shifting the focus of her answer. “I did it in high school. I was in choir.”

While she enjoyed singing in high school, Shapiro credits a lot of her success with it to her instructor.

“My choir teacher helped me see that I had a talent. She helped me develop the confidence to pursue my education.”

While Shapiro said she feels passionately about what she has written, it was not her first intent to write a book. At her high school, seniors were given the chance to be awarded a college scholarship through a small essay. Shapiro completed hers early as a junior, but found out the next year that she had not written it to meet the standards. Instead of dropping her work completely, she expanded the concept and began turning her words into a novel – a process she said took about five years.

After completing her first version, she self-published in April of last year through Because of the nature of self-publishing, Shapiro was responsible for every detail of the book’s development from design and editing to promotion. Now that her second version with edits has been released, she is eager to get the word out.

“I wanted to educate people. Yes, I have challenges; yes, I have struggles – but that doesn’t define me and it doesn’t define anyone else,” she said.

Presently, Shapiro is an assistant at Stages Performing Arts Academy in St. Louis, and says the proceeds from her book sales will be donated there. As stated on their website, Stages is a nonprofit company that aims to advance musical theater through education and performance. At the academy, Shapiro works with special needs students – something she believes has impacted her life greatly.

Through teaching music education, she said she has found that music encourages students to develop more certainty with themselves, and has inspired them to be who they are and have a good time.

“We sing, dance, act; they perform for others,” she said.

Most of the promotion for Shapiro’s book – titled The Music That Gave Me a Voice – has come from the novel’s Facebook page, which now has almost 1,000 likes and has been flooded with kind messages.

Greatly appreciative for all of the support, Shapiro has said that she has more books planned. As for her everyday life, she is driven by the work she does with music. “[My favorite part has been] getting special needs students involved. They can do so much more than anyone realizes.”

To purchase Shapiro’s book, contact her through the book’s Facebook page. Copies are sold for $15.


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