9th December 2014
My appreciation of music began when I was 8 years young. First instrument played was keyboard.
With a little parental encouragement, I could sense I had unknown talent and was able to pick up melodies and play them back within a matter of hours, sometimes a day or two, whatever the context involved. But not knowing I was autistic in any way, it was a little naive to suggest this was the gods telling me what my future was gonna work out as, musically speaking.
But I managed to take it all in my stride, took up lessons a few years later and once I was able to grasp musical connotations socially as well as making the right connections with the humble environment I was to grow up in, things eventually lead to more dreams being achieved!
When lessons started a couple of miles away from my Airdrie abode, I was to learn practical and theoretical aspects of playing keyboards, leading to piano lessons even though it lead to failed attempts to teach music for a living! Going through the ABRSM grades did have it’s advantages though. Better was to come in the name of playing piano live and singing to all audiences in all contexts within a decade but it required patience, perseverence and practice when my childhood was very difficult, being severely bullied for being too different to everyone else and barriers being put in my way to be something special in general terms.
Primary and secondary school seemed impossible at times as I was blind to understanding the rules that governed social behaviour as this was musically relevant when sharing talents with those who’d be able to see past my weaknesses and treat me like an otherwise, normal and sane person when I played live. But I was mostly singled out in school shows due to me not being able to work in group situations and as a soloist. This really upset me and caused me lots of grief and anger which I felt could have been easily addressed and prevented if schools had autism awareness training for all teachers and staff involved musically and in a wider context!
Joined a music group that could accept my shortcomings in Airdrie’s Chapelside Centre near the end of my secondary education and this lead to me becoming more independent in securing gigs, despite not being able to drive at night. This group was called the Volunteers’ Entertainers’ group.
Done many gigs for this group in daytime contexts and at night during special occasions and was rewarded a certificate by the Provost for North Lanarkshire a year later as a token of appreciation for all my hard work in the group.
The leader of the North Lanarkshire Volunteer Development Agency stuck with me for another year outside of the group to improve my confidence and try to get me gigs as a soloist when taking me out at night but it didn’t address the underlying causes I had with being successful till Paragon had took me on nearly 15 years too late! If only something as special as this was known about before the 21st Century would I have been able to really prosper. Tried so hard to get gigs for myself when being self-employed between times only for it to fail. Being autistic was a real curse on me, I often felt worthless and unable to make things happen when it wasn’t my fault and not being in the right place at the right time and knowing the right people, etc. You get my drift
When Ninian came along, I was to reply to a Gumtree ad in 2012 that was posted, looking for volunteers to make Paragon continue as a charity to help disabled folk be included in society and get their musical and artistic abilities truly recognized at the highest levels and I thought, “Why not me?” I felt I had nothing to lose but my sanity so to speak!
And that was when things started to click together for me – Ninian really looking deeply into my musical desires and to address some of the social deprivation I was succumbing to for so long. This led to getting gigs with my needs being met in care homes, day care centres and lunch clubs mostly and a few charity gigs I created for myself and the getting out at night briefly as a result of these shows with and without Paragon Horizons involved. Despite my home life and issues outside of music still being unresolved, my work with Paragon has got me through my ordeals.
By end of this year alone, I will have done 50 gigs in a year, a personal record!! I really can’t thank him and Charlotte enough for getting me the recognition I have deserved for too long and I think they and Paragon Ensemble Ltd as a charity are a force to be reckoned with as long as I am still alive! Long may I prosper musically at least to make a name for myself and may all my dedicated contacts and audiences revel in my shows to come for them as without them, music wouldn’t be so rewarding or therapeutic to anyone either!