Mark plays keyboard on stage with the Melodic Connections Youth Band.

Mark’s story at Melodic Connections began four years ago.  His mom hoped music classes would help him find a social group and connect with friends.  Mark signed up for keyboard and guitar class, and began exploring music.  Then something amazing happened.  “Mark has such a hard time expressing himself with speech,” his mom said. But when he discovered the keyboard, a whole new language opened up for him.  Music gave his family a window into his thoughts and emotions, and it gave Mark an opening to find his voice and find a valued role among family and friends.

At the keyboard, Mark quickly progressed to learning chords and scales, and reading sheet music. Each week, his mom would bring the music home, so he could practice. It was obvious that music was one of Mark’s many inner gifts.  His teacher, board certified music therapist Shelly Zeiser, was amazed at his determination.  “He just keeps trying until he gets it,” she said.

Music is becoming Mark’s preferred language of expression.  He gets off the school bus and goes immediately to the piano, where he plays all the scales in four octaves and knows all they key signatures. It calms and centers him after a stressful day at school.  “There’s so much more inside than you see on the outside,” his mom said.  She thought music was going to be a social outlet for Mark, but it’s also become a window into his thoughts, his feelings, and his world.

Music has also opened doors for Mark to become valued among his peers and his family as a musician. A favorite song of his is I Will by The Beatles, which he has learned and practiced in Youth Band at Melodic Connections.   When Mark’s class at school visited and sang at a retirement center, the class rehearsed the song, so he could accompany  at the piano.

Last year, the family gathered on Christmas Eve to honor Mark’s grandmother who dearly loved music, and had recently passed away. The cousins honored her with music, as one played the trumpet and one sang.  Then, Mark stepped up to the piano and claimed his role as one of the family’s musicians. With lyrics in hand, and Mark at the keyboard, the family sang this beautiful tribute:

And when at last I find you
Your song will fill the air
Sing it loud so I can hear you
Make it easy to be near you
For the things you do endear you to me
Oh, you know I will.

“We were proud, and he was proud,” his mom said.  “I am glad he is doing something he can truly feel confident about.”