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People to Make Music With: How Annie Ray Started a Strings Program for Children with Disabilities

This episode is SO inspiring! Listen as orchestra director: Annie Ray shares about her chance meeting with the “CAT-B” students at Annandale High School and how she started a program specifically for them! Annie discusses simple accommodations for students with significant or severe disabilities, many of whom are non verbal or have limited verbal communication skills. She shares how more than anything, they have changed her life. You do NOT want to miss this one!

Be on the lookout for Annie’s Ted Talk: “The Sounds of Success” to learn more!

Did you know we have a new book out? Here is how you can be entered for an AUTOGRAPHED giveaway of The Music Teacher’s Guide to Engaging English Language Learners:

  1. Write review of #MusicEdLove wherever you get your podcasts!

  2. Subscribe to my mailing list at

  3. I will email the winner the first week of June and then I will send you your very own copy of The Music Teacher’s Guide to Engaging English Language Learners!

Annie Ray hails from a family of musical performers and educators in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex and began playing piano at the age of three and harp at the age of five. A graduate of the University of North Texas in 2017, Annie holds Bachelor of Music degrees in Music Education and Harp Performance. She currently serves as both the Orchestra Director and Leadership teacher at Annandale High School in the Fairfax County Public School system. Annie is an advocate for providing universal access to quality music education and is known for founding and developing creative opportunities to make music accessible to students of all demographics. Her creation of the FCPS Parent Orchestra helps over 150 parents learn to play their child’s instrument each year and has been featured in the County School news several times. In addition, the program also partners with local music colleges to provide hands-on teaching opportunities for future music educators before and during their student teaching. Annie’s collective efforts both in and out of the classroom have received multiple accolades including being declared “Beginning Teacher of the Year” in 2019 and “Outstanding Teacher of the Year” in 2021. This past year, Annie also created a CAT B Orchestra program to bring the joy of Orchestra to special needs High School students with severe developmental or intellectual disabilities. In January 2022, this program was featured and acclaimed on the cover of the Metro section in The Washington Post. TEDx reached out and asked Annie to give a TEDx talk in April 2022, The Sounds of Success, based on this work. She is an active presenter and has been heard at Texas Orchestra Director Association conference with her presentation Harpe Diem: harp in your everyday classroom, Fairfax Arts Coalition for Education on recruitment and retention, upcoming at the 2022 Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic, and as the keynote speaker for Sam Houston State University’s Art of Teaching seminar. She currently resides in Arlington, Virginia with her husband Irving, their baby girl Eloise, and her two favorite four-legged hiking buddies: dogs Baymax and Roo. She is an adventurer at heart, and her biggest bucket list item is to one day run The Amazing Race.

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