Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Clay Aiken iTunes Podcasts, Part Four: On Teaching, Inclusion and The Bubel/Aiken Foundation

Accepting the winning auction bid of $55,000 for the original manuscript of "Lover All Alone" written by Clay Aiken and David Foster, Bubel/Aiken Foundation Champions of Change Gala, Raleigh, NC March 31, 2007.

Photo by cablegirl

Clay Aiken has sold nearly four and a half million CDs and about one and a half million CD singles and EPs since 2003, as well as selling $28 million in concert tickets during his seven tours. His first career --- and his continuing passion --- is teaching, especially of children with special needs.

This passion for inclusion is not new. In this interview, Clay talks about why he originally decided to choose teaching over singing, what meeting the Bubel family meant to his appreciation for the abilities of children with special needs, and his fight for the inclusion of kids with special needs into the YMCA programs when he was a counselor a decade ago. He explains why gaining life experience before he became famous has made him a better singer --- and a better teacher in the larger classroom that God has afforded him. Finally, he talks about the mission and goals of The Bubel/Aiken Foundation, which works to include children with disabilities into the same environments as their typical peers.

This is the fourth of five podcasts available for free download on iTunes.

(Excerpt: Clay Aiken,“Every Time You Go Away” from "A Thousand Different Ways")

I think one of the things that I like most about singing and being able to do this, and something Idol has afforded me the opportunity to do, is to kind of meld my life now as a singer with my life before Idol where I was a teacher and something that I was really passionate about doing.

I can kind of trace each thing that I’ve done in my life --- whether it be singing in high school or working with the YMCA, going to school for special education, working with the Bubel family --- I can kind of see why God put me in each one of those situations. I never thought I was going to sing --- I’m sorry, I never thought I was going to be a teacher, I always thought I’d be a singer, and then changed my mind and thought that would not be a good idea, it would be too risky.

So I decided to become a teacher, and I feel like the reason that I took time off from school and didn’t go straight to college was so that I would have that opportunity to know that I was not going to be a singer right away, and God wanted me to learn about other things first, wanted me to become passionate about something else. ‘Cause I honestly believe that if I left high school and gone straight into singing, come to New York, gone to L.A., Nashville, wherever to sing before I had some world experience, I would have done this all for me.

I’m really happy and I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to learn about other things, to learn about individuals with special needs and their needs and have a passion for that. I got to meet the Bubel family and, with them, started the foundation that we have now, The Bubel/Aiken Foundation. People, since they’re on their computers anyway right now, can go to and find out about what we do.

We include kids with disabilities into programs with kids without disabilities, kids at summer camps, and… I worked at summer camps at the YMCA and saw kids with disabilities excluded from programs and it always upset me to the point that I threatened to quit a few times if they didn’t include a kid with a disability, {laughs} and it kind of became a contention at the Y. I was an activist even before I did this. (laughs)

I have the opportunity now to have a different platform, and you know I could have talked about it at the Y about it, and fought them and told them I was going to quit, but it would’ve only helped one kid get into camp one summer. I think the reason that God let me do that, let me meet the Bubel family, let me get passionate about that was so that because He knew He was going to put me on this stage and He knew that I was going to have the chance to talk about all of this stuff, and that’s something that I’m really passionate about.

We include kids in summer camps, we have summer camps that we’ve started throughout the country, we work with Youth Service America, we have service learning projects for kids so that they can work with individuals with disabilities instead of for individuals with disabilities.

We’re writing a curriculum right now with the help of State Farm and the Department of Education to teach teachers how to include kids with disabilities in service projects in their classrooms. Also, we’re working on a curriculum to teach YMCA or extracurricular directors how to include kids into their programs, so that it’s not bringing it down to the kids’ level with disabilities but it’s not making it unattainable for the kids with disabilities, but making it accessible and fun for every child.

(End with excerpt from “Every Time You Go Away”)

Tomorrow: Part Five: Clay Travels for UNICEF

"Lover All Alone", written by Clay Aiken and David Foster, is available exclusively on the iTunes version of "A Thousand Different Ways". The CD, minus that track, is also available at

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