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Special music: Woodstock teacher makes house calls for lessons

WOODSTOCK – Teaching a student how to play an instrument can be difficult, but teaching someone with special needs can be even harder.

Sean Slavin, 39, of Woodstock, recently relaunched his music lessons business, SKC Music. He had shut it down in 2008 for family reasons. With his children older, Slavin has since been able to bring it back.

Slavin’s prime demographic are 9- to 20-year-olds. Slavin teaches guitar and bass, but he would find a teacher for a student who came to him wanting to learn another instrument, he said.

About half of his roughly 20 students have special needs.

His usual charge is $25 for a half-hour lesson at the student’s house. “The whole house call thing, there’s a niche there,” Slavin said.

Giving lessons to some of his students who have special needs is particularly important to Slavin. Slavin’s son, Jonah, 5, has high level functioning autism. Slavin and his wife, Karen, were able to help Jonah deal with his condition by adjusting his diet and putting him in therapy.

Jonah now sings a lot, Slavin said.

Slavin has been teaching lessons for 23 years. When he shut down SKC Music in 2008, he had more than 100 students.

But corporate life wasn’t his passion, so he left his sales job to revive the music business, he said.

To help supplement his income, he still works part time washing dishes and preparing food at a restaurant.

“Teaching is my passion,” Slavin said. “Connecting with kids and having parents tell me I made a difference, I’ll take that.”

He said the key to helping a student with special needs is connecting with him, and finding a method that will help him learn a skill.

Slavin once had a student who was having trouble picking up a rhythmic pattern. Visual stimuli around the student served as a distraction. So Slavin asked the student to close his eyes, and he picked up the pattern.

“I treat them like regular people,” Slavin said. “I figure out their personalities ... I try different things and see what works.”

For more information about SKC Music, send an email to, or go to or

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