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Friday, August 26, 2011

Imagine

I am sitting on a sofa outside a studio music room listening to Finbar play drums - yes, that is right he is sitting at a full sized drumset tap tapping - along with his teacher, William, who is belting out John Lennon’s “Imagine” on the keyboard.  Just for effect I have included a link to the video for this song.  If you click it, as you watch John Lennon playing his white piano (and strangely, Yoko Ono opening shutters) listen for the drums and think of a 6 yr old playing along.   I’m a little teary eyed admittedly. The song always has that effect on me, but hearing Finbar play along, well, it will bring on the waterworks unless I fight it right now. 

After playing a good while, the music stops and I am knocked out of my reverie. The music is replaced by Finbar’s loud and enthusiastic, if too repetitive questions.  “How many times did I do it? Did I go through the whole song? How many times did I do it? Did I do it 100 times???”  As I type this, unsatisfied with his teachers vague answers, Finbar runs out of the room to tell me, but not before being reminded by his teacher to high five him.  He hollers in my face (he still does not quite get personal space, especially when excited) what I, sitting right outside the room,  already know.  I quickly wipe a tear and muster feigned surprise and wonder.   “Mom, mom! Guess what I did! I played  it over 200 times!”.   More high fives and then I tell him to go back and learn some more.  Time to learn a new beat his teacher says.  I could not be happier and I wish I could sit on this sofa all day long listening to him learn new beats.
It had always been suggested to me by numerous persons in the know that children with Autism and Aspergers do well learning piano (as a rule I make many "notes to self" when people suggest such things). This, for many reasons – the finger movements satisfies a need to “stim”, playing piano music is mathematical and rhythmically soothing for the brain, they can hyperfocus and have an unusual capacity to remember notes, sheet music and such.  (Some autism experts speculate that Mozart had Aspergers.)
So it was for this reason that a couple of months ago I brought Finbar to the Santa Barbara Music Youth Academy.  You may recall if you've been following this blog, that I have been searching a while for a meaningful activity for Finbar (Click here to read about that).    William, his drum teacher, attends our church where another mom of a special needs child suggested I try him out as a piano teacher, stating that he had a ton of patience.  Nerves on edge, but desperate to find Finbar an outlet for building confidence and interest in something,  I brought him in for an “assessment”.   In the end the assessment from William was “I have the patience to teach him. But I think he should start on drums.” Hm. Drums you say? But we have a piano at home...
I once wrote a post called "It Takes a Village" about all the kind-hearted willing people who have helped our family and Finbar along the way.  William falls into this category and so this Thanksgiving I will be thankful for HIM, a rare breed of teacher with a knack for meeting fringe kids like Finbar where they are in the moment.  William is a tall, cheery voiced, smiling, warm and quite talented African American who hails from a musical family.  The first thing he taught Finbar is “positive thinking only” and "take a deep breath" (why on earth have I not used these simple words of wisdom with Finbar before????).   His focus wasn't teaching drums, but teaching Finbar to learn.  This clearly worked.  Finbar reiterated the same motto to me at home on more than one occasion.  I am always amazed at how much I have to learn as a parent - “positive thinking”. 
The kid picked up playing quickly, so $350 later (not including the lessons) we are pregnant with a fine drumset and a hope and a prayer that Finbar’s enthusiasm and budding mentee relationship with William will churn out good value.   As I hear Finbar tell William many times while he is learning the new beat "OK, I’ll TRY MY BEST, William" I do feel like it is good value.

As I pull out of the parking lot after this lesson, I realise Finbar is quite tired and probably getting sick. I congratulate him again on doing his best. He responds "Mom, can I keep taking drum lessons until I get really good please? Because it will take a long long time for me to become a really good drummer. Can I please?" 

"Sure bud." I say, imagining he and his buddy Grace doing a drum duet at next year's school talent show (read my previous post about the school talent show). Imagining him belting out Def Leppard tunes when he is 10, me singing along...heck I may even buy him some of those round John Lennon spectacles...You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one...

5 comments:

CoffeeAndDanish said...

Looking forward to finbars first concert at PIP!

Rebecca Royce said...

AHH! I want to see Finbar play! Can you video it?

Taryn Kincaid said...

This made me misty-eyed. And it's not even remotely schmaltzy.

finbarsmom said...

I do need to video it. But he is stlil camera shy. But its a good suggestion because he needs a little motivation to practice at home :0 Thanks Taryn, I like that others can get misty eyed over a good song and a kid :)

Jennifer Probst said...

Really beautifully written post. I felt like I was right there with you - thanks for sharing.