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About Us

About Us

ZYLOFONE is comprised of a tight knit group of friends and colleagues based in the Hudson Valley region of New York State, who are dedicated to rallying around the vision of our founder, Debbie Major, to create the ultimate performing arts experience and inspiring educational opportunities for disabled children and adults.

As a single mother, having raised highly functioning twin boys with special needs , Gage was born with Cerebral Palsy and Asperger’s Syndrome; Jacob has classical autism - Debbie is intimately familiar with the challenges, frustrations and systemic bias that people with disabilities are confronted with on a daily basis.

Having also enjoyed a long distinguished career as a renowned vocalist, musician, performer and music educator, she is also uniquely qualified to understand what most effectively works to teach, engage and inspire many special needs individuals to achieve their fullest potential. Over many years of observing, evaluating, and fine-tuning her teaching methods and techniques, she has developed a veritable plethora of ideas that would better serve people with disabilities in the performing arts community, including physical space design concepts, visual stimulation, and sensory perception.

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Our Mission


Zylofone provides music and performing arts workshops for the special needs community designed to offer individuals the opportunity and freedom to express and indulge in safe and educational activities while enhancing their social, life skills and development.



Sponsors

Jim and Barbara Major


Major Contract Consulting


Crystal Run Village, Inc


SUNY Orange


SUNY New Paltz


Ms. Claire


Stewart


Walden Savings Bank


New York School of Music


Vistaprint


Alto Music


WTBQ 93.5 FM 1110 AM


The Rhythmic Arts Project


Orange County NY Arts Council


Inspire


Orange County Chamber of Commerce


Kim Barnes J. Hilburn


NYCON


New Windsor Country Inn


Hudson Valley Credit Union


Noble Coffee Roasters


Devitt Management & Associates



      Creative Touch Landscaping &
      Home Improvements Inc.


Dorothea Leonhardt Fund of Community Foundation of Texas



      Ardal Powell - New York Life



Sponsors

Our Team


Partners

Debbie Major    
   Founder/CEO
     Debbie Major is a dynamic world-class vocalist and performer who has been thrilling live audiences for years with her vivacious, melt-your-heart charm and captivating vocal prowess. Her deeply soulful instincts and sensibilities flow naturally, as she makes every song she sings her own. Highly regarded by gifted musicians and entertainers in all genres, Debbie's extensive knowledge of melody, vocal styles, phrasing, and repertoire has earned her tremendous praise and accolades from adoring fans and critics across the globe. She is often the singer other vocalists and producers call when they need to "take it to the next level." She is also a prominent vocal coach, songwriter/arranger and instrumentalist.

A native of Dallas, Texas, Debbie relocated to the Hudson Valley region of New York State as a teenager, and soon began pursuing her passion for music, performing and traveling with live bands. It wasn't long before the best players and industry pros noticed her artistry, commitment, and work ethic, began demanding her for premier events and session work. Critics have described Debbie as "mesmerizing", "a sensual stylist," and "a soulful powerhouse.” Her engaging stage presence and undeniable passion bring audiences to their feet every time!

Renowned music writer/radio host Larry Flick has described her awesome ability to draw upon her broadly diverse influences and make a song her own as she “delivers a performance that proudly wears the influence of Maureen McGovern and Patti Austin - an odd combination that makes perfect sense when you sit back and let Major work her magic…” (Billboard Magazine).

Debbie has captivated thousands of fans and performed alongside great entertainers over the years, including Lou Rawls, Melissa Manchester, The Monkees, Red Buttons, Rich Little, and many more. She often collaborates with producers Steve Raleigh (LWR Productions), Elliot Glenn (On Target Productions), and others, on a multitude of projects. In addition to leading her own band, she regularly appears as a featured vocalist with The Jon Bates Band (www.JonBatesBand.com), The Funk Junkies (http://thefunkjunkies.net), Steve Raleigh (www.steveraleigh.com), and many others.

Debbie is also the Founder and visionary force behind an amazing non-profit venture called, "ZYLOFONE" (www.Zylofone.org). By bringing her insight and unique understanding of how to engage people with cognitive and physical disabilities she’s inviting them into the magical world of performing arts. Debbie has conceptualized an innovative teaching method that serves to educate and empower students to discover and develop their own inherent creative talents. Thus creating endless benefits for themselves and the community. Debbie's extensive knowledge and experience, combined with her unparalleled professionalism, natural enthusiasm, dedication, humor, compassion, and empathy will provide many aspiring performers with the tools needed to embark on successful careers in the performing arts. Debbie Major is the "real deal"... an artist, teacher and advocate with staying power!

Mark Pugh    
   President of the Board
     Mark grew up in the small town of Demarest, NJ about 20 min. outside of NYC.

During his youth, Mark displayed a consistent interest in mechanical items, designing /crafting items in wood, and the arts. His High School curriculum included classes in drawing, painting, graphic design, sculpture, and architecture. Mark was part of a team that designed, fabricated, and painted scenery for six school musical productions.

He attended PRATT Institute in Brooklyn, NY. The core of his education included classes in Light and Color, 3 dimensional design, Space Analysis, and Product Design/Development. He received a Bachelors of Industrial Design in 1981.

Post graduation, Mark worked in design consulting offices located within the New York Metropolitan area providing services from concept development up to and including “turn-key” solutions. The array of projects includes commercial/industrial products, package design, graphic design as well as brand and corporate identity. Clients include:DuPont, AMF, Mine Safety Appliances, Grumman, General Foods, Phillip Morris, Kraft, Hertz, and 3M.

Mark transitioned from consulting to the corporate environment of a capital equipment manufacturer. He specialized in the design and development industrial meat processingequipment and systems for poultry, pork and beef processors. He has designed equipment that has been installed in North America, Europe, and New Zeeland.

Currently Mark is the Engineering Manager for a manufacturer of pharmaceutical material handling and processing equipment. Services are also offered for production system integration. He has equipment and system installations in North America, SouthAmerica, Europe, and Asia

Over his professional career, Mark has accumulated several patents that he shares withclients and co-workers.

Mark regularly attends and participates in Zylofone workshops. He enjoys designing and providing equipment to Zylofone that facilitates an efficient and more productive workshop environment for the students and instructors.


Kim Barnes    
   Vice President
     Kim is a native of Dallas, Texas. She began her professional career with Indian Earth, a manufacturer of a natural cosmetic skin bronzer marketed to luxury retail stores. Kim’s initial position was an account sales representative. Product introduction and sales staff management were added to her list of responsibilities as she advanced within the Company.

She transitioned to the field of investments where Kim was trained as a Registered Sales Assistant with Dean Witter in the Houston area. Her responsibilities included working with international investors to assist with commodities and stock trades specializing in cotton.

Kim’s career progressed when she accepted a position with Smith Barney in Dallas. There she assisted high volume brokers with all aspects of their accounts. Her responsibilities included managing all administrative phases of both option and stock trades.

In 1993, she took a reprieve from her professional career to raise her son, Randall Lee, Jr.

Kim returned to the business environment with J. Hilburn Men’s Clothiers, a luxury manufacturer of custom men’s apparel, accessories, and outerwear. As a founding partner, she utilized her past experience with customer service, marketing, management, product introduction, and sales to help develop the foundation principals for this rapid growing start-up. Kim’s responsibilities include training new “style partners” and client wardrobe consulting. She also provides professional wardrobe services for businesses developing and refining their image.

Kim is a member of Park Cities Women in Business, an organization dedicated to the education, support, and promotion of women in the business environment.

Her personal interests include fashion, travel, and spending time with family.

Kim currently resides in Dallas, Texas with her husband Randall Lee Barnes.

Maureen Major    
   COO
     Maureen has worked in the hospitality industry for most of her career. Starting out as a server, she quickly worked her way up to become the manager for several companies including the Route 66 Casino Hotel in Albuquerque, NM and Choctaw Casino Resort in Durant, OK. Her duties included working with many notables, such as stars like Jay Leno, Ron White, Rick Springfield and Jamie Foxx to name a few.

Maureen has also worked with an executive team creating custom menus and creating menu and food cost analysis. She is proficient in both PC and MacIntosh productivity software including Microsoft Office and Quickbooks and has professional experience doing inventory, payroll, profit and loss statements and all types of general accounting. She is also proficient in web design and social media.

She is currently employed with the Mid-Hudson Small Business Development Center working with the NY Rising program but donates her time as the C.O.O. for Zylofone Studios, Inc.

Illisa Lipkin    
   Treasurer
    

Mimi Leto-Naclerio    
   Secretary of the Board
    

David Major    
   Advisor
     David C. Major was born in 1963. He was raised in Dallas Texas along with his six brothers and sisters. After graduating from high school, he decided to pursue a career in the United States Navy. He received and completed his basic training at the Naval Training Center in Orlando, Florida.

Initially, David was assigned to the USS IOWA (BB 61), a battleship based out of Norfolk, Virginia. Upon it’s decommissioning, he would be transferred to the USS SIMON LAKE (AS 33). This ship was a submarine tender based out of Holy Loch, Scotland. David’s specific field of duty was Personnel/Human Resources.

Excelling at his work, David was offered a position as a naval instructor at the Naval Air Station in Meridian, Mississippi. There he would have the opportunity to train, demonstrate his skills, and share his past and practical experience with sailors after completing their basic training.

Later, he would be transferred to Cherry Point, North Carolina. This was an “independent duty position” with the United States Marine Corps. There he was solely responsible for personnel and compensation issues for all corpsman, doctors, and chaplains stationed at Cherry Point Air Station.

Eventually, he would move to Raleigh, North Carolina where he would be assigned to the Recruiting District Headquarters. There he was the Assistant Chief Administrator for the District of Raleigh. This region encompassed all recruiters based in both North and South Carolina.

David earned the opportunity to serve on the USS SAN ANTONIO (LPD 17) while it was being built in Pascagoula, Mississippi. His responsibilities were at both the Naval Air Station and the Northrup Grumman Shipyard. This ship was one of the next generation of amphibious transport dock vessels designed to deliver 800 marines ashore via landing craft and helicopters.

He eventually returned to Raleigh, North Carolina where he would complete his naval career as the Chief Administrator for the Raleigh Recruiting District. After completing 20 years of service, David would retire as a Chief Petty Officer.

His continued desire to pursue a career in public service that led him to his current position with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol. David is a HR specialist in the Human Resources/Personnel Unit.

David has been married to his wife April for 21 years. They have two children. Their daughter Katherine will begin attending college this year. Chris, their son will be entering the 8th grade.

David enjoys spending time with his family, yard work, computers, and travel.

Jim Lawler    
   Advisor
     1998 - 2012. Executive Director, Crystal Run Village.
1987. - 1998. Associate Exec. Dir.
1978. - 1987. Director, Fallsburg Campus
1972. - 1978. Director, Middletown Day Program
1969. - 1972. Instructor, Middletown.

Jim dedicated his 43 year professional career to Crystal Run Village, a regional not for profit organization supporting and providing services to individuals with developmental and or mental challenges. These include residents of homes spread throughout New York in Orange, Sullivan, and Rockland Counties.

He joined the organization as a camp counselor in 1969. Jim returned in 1970 as a teacher for two years on a visa. His responsibilities increased as he directed the program for the next six years. Beyond that, Jim was responsible for the Sullivan County Program for the next nine years.

In 1987 Jim became Associate Executive Director. In 1988, the Organization was tasked with downsizing the two large residential campuses. They began transitioning the residents of the Middletown and Fallsburg facilities to homes in the community. In 1990 they were assigned a third campus in Rockland County as well. The transition of all residents was completed in 2004. Eventually, forty eight residential homes were organized to accommodate all of the residents.

In 1998 Jim became Executive Director. He was responsible for all aspects of the organization. Along with his Senior Management Group, the organization has a full time staff of six hundred and a part time staff of one hundred fifty. Together, they supported over 700 individuals with an annual budget in excess of forty million dollars.

Jim met his wife Pat through the organization in 1970. He remains active with Crystal Run Village and serves on their Board of Directors. Jim is also a Board Member for HONORehg, a crisis center in Middletown New York, Catholic Charities of Orange and Sullivan Counties, and The Wallkill East Rotary Club. He has served as a Board Advisor to Zylofone Studios, Inc. since inception.

Taylor Sterling    
   Advisor
    

Barb Butler     
   Advisor
    


Success Stories

"My 11 year old daughter loves Zylofone! The classes have a strong sensory based approach along with lots of one to one interaction which works really well for her. They understand her needs and are able to really connect bringing out her joy through the beauty of music. I highly recommend Zylofone for all children on the spectrum, it is a very special program as unique as they are!"

Karen Schwartz





"Our son is 6 years old, on the autism spectrum and just starting to develop language skills. Even when he was a baby he responded to music and would punctuate each song he listened to with a 2-syllable sigh of pleasure. When anxious or when happy our son sings. Sometimes he sings most of the day. He is naturally drawn to music. At home we play guitar and sing with him and he fills in words as we play. But as an only child we desperately wanted him to enjoy music with others and with peers as well. Elijah's school offers no music class nor music therapy for special children. Frustrated with this and highly aware of the overwhelming evidence of the benefits of such programs, we went in search of obtaining music therapy only to find that they were very expensive and a long drive from us.

Thus, we were delighted when we found Zylofone. Not only is it on the east side of Orange County but it is staffed by an attentive mix of music therapists, professional musicians, and local college students recently graduated or studying Occupational therapy. Founder of Zylofone, Debbie Major understands thoroughly our situation as a mother of two young men on the spectrum and cultivates a culture of participation with parents. Our son Elijah attended his first 6-week session at Zylofone this Winter. When we bring Elijah to his small group class he RUNS excitedly from the car all the way to the door. Upon entering, Zylofone's wonderful staff immediately attend to his toileting training and then bring him into a warm positive space filled with intriguing musical instruments, whereupon they then explore improvisation-ally within the structure of the session. We were particularly impressed by the individualized attention Elijah receives at Zylofone. Since beginning Zylofone our son no longer plugs his ears regularly (over stimulated by sound/hyper-sensitive) and eagerly greets and says goodbye to his new friends at Zylofone. We are looking forward to attending Zylofone for years to come and feel our sons natural musical inclinations and thus his communication skills will be enhanced and nourished by this very special place."

Dena Wolf





"Let the world be your stage...

A well seasoned chorus director once told my group that when you sing, it is physically impossible for you not to be happy. He went on to explain that this is because the act of singing naturally triggers your brain to release endorphins. This is surely why my son, Aaron, has a broad smile on his face any time he is at the microphone....

Aaron was a late bloomer. He didn't say his first word until he was twenty one months old. As he further developed, we noticed his speech was quite delayed. Low muscle tone in his face made it hard to articulate and speak with a natural flow. When he was three and a half years old, Aaron had the opportunity to use a friend's karaoke machine; he was hooked! He eagerly asked us to take a seat and watch his "show". That Christmas, Santa brought him his very own karaoke machine. It became the most used electronic device in our house! My son would race off the preschool bus and head right to the microphone. Boy! Was he happy! He was a STAR, standing on our coffee table, belting out tunes and rocking his toy guitar. He made announcements and recited story lines from his favorite movies. That microphone not only improved his speech, it gave him a true voice and an outlet to express himself. He told me "I want to be on a stage" and I contemplated how we could make that happen for hi< br> m.

As he grew older, I continued to dream of nourishing Aaron's love of music and performance. But when your child has extra needs, it's not always so easy to enroll him in the local drama program. He's a VERY social kid, my boy, but he needed some extra support; some understanding of his abilities and the obstacles that he faced; someone who could work with him to help him have fun and reach his potential. We were on a field playing adaptive baseball when I heard the news: there was a new musical program in town- one for kids who happen to deal with disabilities. It was called, "Zylofone".

It isn't every day that you encounter a perfect fit - something that you imagined and longed for in your mind's eye that actually becomes a reality. About three years ago, we found our perfect fit when we walked through Zylofone's door. We started with a music and movement class. I remember driving the scenic thirty minutes to get to that class every Saturday. Aaron was thrilled and I was content to drop him off, knowing that he was in good hands doing what he loved best, being himself and socializing with friends. There was a suggestion sheet at the end of the class. I remember asking if a theater production would be possible for these kids, for my son so desired to be on stage. A year later, a magical message appeared on my email: Zylofone was putting on its first stage production! We leaped at the opportunity...

Aaron's debut was in the roll of Rover in "ARF". With Zylofone's dedicated staff and volunteer mentors, he rehearsed the songs, the choreography and the script for many weeks. I was also privileged to be involved in helping out with the scenery and make up. Not only was my child engaged in an activity, but we became a community for them. It was an incredibly positive experience. When the curtain finally opened at showtime it was hard for me not to cry; I was so moved seeing my boy shine on stage. The staff and volunteers put in so many details to make the kids feel like the stars they are. As we were leaving the auditorium that day, Aaron told me "I want to do another play". I too could not wait for the next performance.

In December 2015, Zylofone presented a second opportunity to be on stage through their musical theater production, "SWAMPED". Once again, Aaron worked diligently to learn his part, this time as the resident snake in the bog. This production was especially meaningful because many of the volunteer mentors were also kids. They served as peers and role models, and what a beautiful thing that was! We parents of children with extra needs can often worry that our children are somewhat isolated. Interaction with typically developing kids is so important, but not always available. It is a win-win situation where both parties learn from one another and special bonds are formed. I am so thankful for the staff at Zylofone being truly in tune with all of the nuances that bridge gaps and create an inclusive community.

Zylofone is a unique program that defines harmony between those dealing with disabilities and the communities they live in. It fosters a love of music and performance and delivers confidence on every level. My son is so fortunate to be involved in such an exemplary group.

Aaron's framed head shots hang from his bunk bed so he can remind himself of the great performances he has given. He feels accomplished and proud of himself. Zylofone set the stage for him and he is eagerly awaiting the announcement of their next production, as am I. There can never be enough praise for Zylofone! "

Rossana Cohen





"Good morning all,

It is our pleasure to support Zylofone, our family and our friends. Your dream is a great one and we are thrilled to see it as it is blossoms. You have all been such a great support to Emily and I. I have learned so much through you and Zylofone. Special needs was not in my life until I was given the honor of raising my sweet Emily who I like to refer to as Sunshine. Finding myself with a child who has special needs and being a wee *:) happy bit older than a typical parent I was kind of wondering if we could do and be okay. Through Zylofone we have been educated, supported and continually growing. Emily and I have made some awesome lifetime friends. We look forward to many more years supporting, being a part of and hanging out with our Zylofone Family.
Love all of you!!!!"

Tammy & Emily