In Tune And In Stride: A Lakewood Teacher-Student Duo Is Breaking Barriers In Music And Sports

Photo by Felicia Ardelean

Amid the early afternoon clamor of band rehearsals at Harding Middle School, a remarkable story is unfolding in the world of music and mentorship. Aiden Ardelean and Etienne Massicotte, a student-teacher duo, both of whom are visually impaired, are taking a unique approach to ensuring Aiden’s success in music, and beyond.

Aiden Ardelean, a young trumpet player with a keen ear and a passion for Romanian and Serbian music, faces unique challenges due to his severe visual impairment. Unable to read printed materials, Aiden’s journey into the world of music requires a modified approach. Etienne, whose visual impairment is less severe, draws from his experience having learned music in a traditional setting and tailors his teaching methods to meet Aiden’s needs.

In their one-on-one sessions, they utilize an age-old approach – learning by ear. Instead of relying on visual cues, Aiden learns to recognize notes by their names and their sound. Knowing Aiden’s passion for Eastern European culture, Etienne selects music that aligns with both Aiden’s preferences and the required band curriculum. This not only helps Aiden develop the skills on the trumpet recommended for his age-level, but also ensures that Aiden can enjoy making music that resonates with his family’s heritage.

Outside of their lessons, Etienne noticed Aiden’s boundless energy and penchant for darting through the school's halls, which Aiden learned to navigate with a cane, and has since memorized. Understanding the potential hazards, and wanting to create an outlet for Aiden’s budding athleticism, Etienne took it upon himself to introduce a solution – running together outside of school, on a tether.

Etienne became familiar with the technique of running with a tether during triathlon training camps at the US Olympic and Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Running tethered to a guide is standard practice for visually-impaired athletes in adaptive sports, and requires the guide to give cues and instructions to ensure safety while preserving the independence of the athlete.

Aiden’s mother, Felicia Ardelean, recalls countless memories of her son riding his bike and running around their neighborhood in Lakewood while she and his father attempted to supervise him but could not keep up. His parents were torn between protecting him and encouraging his independence. “He loves the speed,” Felicia says, “but it was a lot of work getting him to understand it’s a safety issue. The world is scary and mom knows because I’m his eyes.” Aiden has the corner of Hilliard and Victoria memorized, but could only stay in his neighborhood where he knows the surroundings. As his determination to be active only continued to grow, Aiden’s mother watched from afar, reminding him, “mommy gets really scared.”

Etienne is a seasoned triathlete and a finisher of some notable races including Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga and the Escape From Alcatraz triathlon in San Francisco. Drawing on these experiences as well as his training in adaptive sports, Etienne is humbled to be helping Aiden develop the mobility and independence that he and his family are seeking. Aiden and Etienne can now be seen running, tethered at the waist, at the Lakewood High School track, with their hopes set on running the Guardian Mile in Cleveland, OH on July 27th, 2024.

As Aiden enjoys his newfound abilities, Etienne is using this unique opportunity to raise funds for a Chicago-based charity called Dare2Tri. Dare2Tri is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting athletes with disabilities, and is sponsoring Etienne to run the Chicago Marathon on October 13th, 2024. In order to be eligible to participate, Etienne must meet a fundraising goal of $1,500 for the organization. On behalf of Dare2Tri, the Ardelean family, and the Lakewood Band Program, we hope that you consider donating to support this cause online at:

All donations to Dare2Tri are tax deductible. For more information about Dare2Tri, visit

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Volume 20, Issue 9, Posted 2:53 PM, 05.08.2024