Autism The Musical

On Tuesday, I went to Berklee College for an autism symposium. The title was “Perspectives on Music Therapy And Autism” and it was sponsored by the Greater Boston Chapter of Autism Speaks. What does music have in common with autism? The answer inspired me both visually and musically. The first half of the day was very insightful to me because there were these speakers who had amazing views about music therapy and autism that actually made sense. One speaker that really spoke to me was Dr. Krystal Demaine, an alum of Berklee. She spoke about the role of imitation in music therapy for with ASD. What I saw on the PowerPoint really blew me away. There were videos of her working with children and showing them how to memorize drum cadences and certain sequences with vocal accomplices. It was pretty cool to see how their skills in retention improved in practice. She really knows her stuff.  It took me back to the time when I exposed myself to different genres of music as a child.  Because I could not talk for the first four years of my life, I had to use my ears and listen to my surroundings. Since I was at Berklee, I knew I was in for a few good performances by the current students there and if you are a student there, you better sing and well. They definitely did not disappoint. One of  the students whom I had the opportunity to meet was Kailee Holly, the president of the music therapy student club. She graced the stage with a beautiful rendition of the bossa nova song Desafinado by Antonio Carlos Jobim in English as well as Portuguese and I was floored by her lovely voice. For me, the crown jewel was listening to the Boston Higashi Jazz Band. This band, directed by Kaname Ueno, was entirely composed of students on the autism spectrum and what they did blew me away. They started off with a very nice rendition of My Funny Valentine but what really got me energized was their version of Cantaloupe Island by Herbie Hancock. The Boston Higashi Jazz Band showed me the true power of the human spirit through music. I walked away from the symposium with a deeper respect for music but with a greater appreciation for my autism because it helped me communicate in a way that I could not do otherwise. Autism through song and instruments? Now, that’s music to my ears.

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