We are pleased to announce that Christian Huber is the recipient of our ABC Law Centers Cerebral Palsy Scholarship for Fall of 2019. Christian is a student at Bucks County Community College in Newtown, Pennsylvania. He is planning to pursue a career as a music therapist.
See below to read Christian’s winning essay, accompanied by a video that demonstrates his musical talent. Congrats, Christian!
The Story of My Musical Journey – from Childhood to the Present Moment
“Music is a world within itself with a language we all understand, with an equal opportunity for all to sing and clap their hands.”1
These words were written by Stevie Wonder in his song called “Sir Duke.” In that tune, he wrote lyrics that commemorated musicians who made a mark on the global stage, including the individual who the song was named after, Duke Ellington, and others such as Count Basie, Glenn Miller, Louis Armstrong, and Ella Fitzgerald.1 Although those legendary artists were mentioned, Wonder emphasized the larger point of how every person has the innate ability to understand and benefit from the various components of musical “language.” It is the purpose of music therapy to “…address [the] physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals,”2 and I want to use the skills I have gained on my lifelong musical journey in order to fulfill that objective.
Although my future in music is bright at this present moment, my beginnings as a piano player looked grim at first. On October 8, 1999, I was born with a brain injury known as cerebral palsy (CP), which is a physical disability that I acquired from birth.3 I was diagnosed with a mild form of this condition, which means that when I was in elementary school, for instance, I could do several things that able-bodied kids could do, but just in a different way. For example, I could walk, run, or jump on the playground with other students during recess, but in a more awkward, less flexible manner. Because of my physical impairments, I didn’t take an interest in sports like my other peers did, so my mother decided to take me to private piano lessons taught by my school’s music instructor.
Although my mom’s idea seemed wonderful, my teacher wasn’t so sure at first. As she was showing me how to press down the keys on her piano, she wasn’t sure if I would be able to do so because of the spasticity in my fingers. She also doubted the possibility of me becoming a piano player in the future. She expressed her concerns to my mother, but my mom was not phased; she did not want me to quit. She continued to take me to more lessons with my teacher with hopes that I would get better, and my mom’s persistence paid off. As I spent time practicing my piano at home and attending more lessons with my teacher, I was unknowingly training my brain by making new connections. After repeatedly trying countless times to push my fingers down on the keys of the piano, I finally did it! I overcame my physical limitations and defied the odds. When I completed this seemingly impossible task, my teacher, mother, and I were all so happy! All of us knew that there was a possibility that I could become a piano player, and that I could have a promising future in music.
As the years went by, I continued to take many more lessons, in which I was able to refine my skills as a pianist. My music teacher from elementary school and my current instructor have both guided me on my artistic journey by overseeing my musical development. I have learned several songs under their tutelage, including classical pieces such as “Aria,” “Für Elise,” “Minuet in C Major,” and “On Wings of Song,” to hymns and worship songs like “Amazing Grace,” “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” “Bringing in the Sheaves,” “How Great Thou Art,” “I Can Only Imagine,” and “Old Church Choir,” and jazz songs including “What A Wonderful World,” “Chameleon,” “Footprints,” “All Blues,” “Recorda-Me,” and “So What.” As one can see, I have been immersed in the worlds of various genres of music.
Although my previous and current music teachers have all been influential in my life, my mother has been the driving force behind all of my arts education, as previously mentioned. Besides taking me to my lessons, she recently discovered that I have a unique gift that only one in ten thousand people have.4 This gift, which is present in those with cerebral palsy 5 and in the broader disability community,6 is known as perfect pitch. She discovered this special ability of mine when she and my brother were writing a song at the piano, and I told them what key it was in even though I wasn’t sitting with them. In addition, she played various notes to see if I could identify them without watching her press the keys, and I was able to correctly name all of the pitches she played. When she knew for certain that I absolutely had this skill, she was amazed, and she continues to encourage me to further cultivate my musical talents.
Within fifteen years, it is my goal to have earned a Bachelor’s of Music (B.Mus) in Music Therapy, a Master’s of Arts (M.A.) in Music Therapy, and a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) certification. By accomplishing these three goals, I will be able to help the various individuals in the diverse Special Needs community that I am part of. Although able-bodied music therapists do exhibit desirable character traits such as kindness and compassion, they lack the ability to fully understand the struggles that their disabled clients cope with on a daily basis. It is because of my impairments that I would be completely able to relate to my students in the sincerest way possible. To my knowledge, I have neither met, nor read about a music therapist with a brain injury or physical disability. If I am fortunate enough to attend college in the future, I could potentially make history by becoming the first music therapist with cerebral palsy (CP) who could positively impact others by giving them the therapeutic gift of music.
1 Stevie Wonder, Sir Duke Lyrics (Brooklyn: Genius Media Group Inc., 1976): https://genius.com/Stevie-wonder-sir-duke-lyrics
2 What is Music Therapy (Silver Spring: American Music Therapy Association): https://www.musictherapy.org/about/musictherapy/
3 Basics about Cerebral Palsy (Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention): https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/cp/facts.html
4 Martina Sarris, Perfect Pitch: Autism’s Rare Gift (Interactive Autism Network, 2015): https://iancommunity.org/ssc/perfect-pitch-autism-rare-gift
5 Henny Kupferstein and Susan Rancer, Perfect Pitch in the Key of Autism (Bloomington: iUniverse, 2016): https://goo.gl/u35Ne3
6 Perfect Pitch (Madison: Wisconsin Medical Society): https://www.wisconsinmedicalsociety.org/professional/savant- syndrome/resources/articles/perfect-pitch/