Disabled children find inspiration in a new music school

A once dilapidated building in Birkirkara has been transformed into a musical haven for disabled and autistic children – the first of its kind in Malta.

The official opening of the Villa Bianca Music Center took place on Wednesday morning.

Video: Chris Sant Fournier.

The center provides a safe space for children and young people to explore the power of music, which benefits them both creatively and therapeutically.

The music center is a project of the Malta Trust Foundation and the premises were donated by pianist Fransina Abela and her husband, Maurice. The building once housed the ‘Fransina Abela Brincat Piano School’.

Launch of Villa Bianca with President Emeritus Marie Louise Coleiro Preca and young musicians Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

The premises include four large, well-lit music rooms, each named after a planet (Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn).

On Wednesday, all four venues were filled with music, laughter and joy as children with various disabilities took center stage and performed.

Alessia Bonnici playing the piano at the new music center Photo: Chris Sant FournierAlessia Bonnici playing the piano at the new music center Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

“I love filling spaces with my music, it makes me happy and helps me make new friends,” said 16-year-old musician Alessia Bonnici. Malta weather.

Alessia, who has been playing the piano for eight years, has struggled with autism all her life, but once her fingers hit the piano keys, she is immersed in the music.

She was one of the children who unveiled the plaque in front of the music center on Wednesday.

Five-year-old Melania Haegdorens Imbroll isn’t letting her blindness stop her from playing piano and violin, as well as singing.

“I feel good when I play the piano and I love the Villa Bianca school,” she said before breaking into song and playing a tune on the piano alongside pianist Quiven Ellul.

At the age of two, Ellul was diagnosed with cancer in both eyes, which caused him to lose his sight. Despite the challenges, the seven-year-old enjoys his lessons at the center, where he can play piano, ukulele and xylophone.

Children with disabilities can find a safe space to create and play music at Villa Bianca in Birkirkara Photo: Chris Sant FournierChildren with disabilities can find a safe space to create and play music at Villa Bianca in Birkirkara Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

“Music can open new paths and enrich our lives”

Rosetta Debattista, consultant at Villa Bianca, pianist and music therapist, said she had been waiting for many years for the center to open.

“The arts are so beautiful, and music in particular can transcend a disability – it helps open up new paths and can enrich someone’s life,” she said.

Villa Bianca has enrolled 85 students and offers over 400 sessions over a four-day week.

“There is a lot of work done, but every minute is worth it. We believe the arts and music have brought power and joy to all of these children and their families,” Debattista said.

She believes the center is the start of many future projects.

“We already have discussions with the University of West England to launch a local course in blended music therapy and provide students with the opportunity to learn among professionals here at the centre,” she said.

“It was a memorable day for us and for all the children.”

“A special day in Maltese history and a dream come true”

Malta Trust Foundation Chair Marie-Louise Colerio Preca, who has been the driving force behind the centre, said the opening of Villa Bianca was a dream come true.

“I feel like I’m dreaming today, Villa Bianca is truly a dream come true and a special day in our history and for the children who bring the concept of Villa Bianca to life.”

Her contact with the Down Syndrome Association inspired her to get involved in assistive devices for the Center for the Visually Impaired and the Autistic Parents Association.

“We must continue our work to provide opportunities for children of diverse abilities – I believe that every person, regardless of ability, should have every opportunity to live their best life,” she said.

The Malta Trust Foundation’s international partners – including Emanuele di Villabianca, Barone di Culcasi, who was present at the opening – and 15 local businesses helped set up the centre.

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