Andy’s Musical Victory

My students’ recital last weekend featured an especially brave personal victory for one of my kids. Andy (not real name) has Asperger’s (

He stumbled into my school several months ago courtesy of a frazzled and worried mother, who, up til that point, had only a chaotic and out-of-control almost 7 year old. Anders  attends public school, where, despite medication, he misses all/most social cues and is seen as a hyperactive disruptive force. His ONLY successful outlet: solo intensive genius-level lego play.

But with me, in his piano lesson, he suddenly and instantly morphed into a calm maestro. He focused. He was able to read music from the minute I put it in front of him. There was literally no learning curve.  What takes most children months and months to stumble through took him literally seconds. Before we knew it, he was playing Hanon exercises with both hands almost instantly. I often wept at his lesson…witnessing him angelically lit up from inside by his accomplishment.

When it was time for the group recital, no one was more prepared MUSICALLY than Anders.  But the night of the recital, when all my students gathered in my room to wait their turn, he lost it. He clowned, he drooled, he threw himself down, he ate garbage, and did whatever he could do generate a response from the other children, even if disgust or horror or anger. Some laughed with him.  I eventually had to ask him mother to restrain him and have him wait in a separate room for his turn. He was crushed that he had to go off with her.

As she left to isolate him from the other children, I asked her what the plan was if he should act out on stage. She thought for a minute and said proudly, “I want you to explain to the audience, before he plays, when you call him up, that he has Asperger’s and how miraculous his music has been for him. I will stand on the stage and take him off, if need be.”

So, after a bunch of perfectly well-behaved little folk, it was his turn. I announced him. Quiet now, he and his mother walked up to the stage together.  He solemnly took his seat at the piano. I did as the mother requested and briefed the audience about how much of a risk bringing Andy onto the stage was that night, but how music was an instant, if not one of the only wins in his life so far, and how it was crucial to give him the chance to perform.  Audience members nodded in understanding. He nodded that he was ready.

We all held our breath……… and he played beautifully. He was absolutely perfect. He earned a tremendous round of applause.

I am so moved by his heartfelt relationship to his music. May he always find comfort and pride there.

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