An un­tapped tal­ent

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By AN­DREA O’NEIL

Ranui teenager Ju­lian Mclaren has per­fect pitch, per­fect rhythm and a pow­er­ful mem­ory – but mu­sic is the only area in his life which isn’t a strug­gle.

The 14 year old is se­verely autis­tic and finds so­cial in­ter­ac­tion dif­fi­cult. At mu­sic prac­tices he is dis­tracted and en­er­getic, strum­ming his fel­low pupils’ vi­o­lin strings and saw­ing at their cel­los. When he sits at the pi­ano, how­ever, he is calm and mea­sured.

‘‘It all seems to melt away,’’ dad Stu­art Mclaren says.

Ju­lian has sa­vant syn­drome, mean­ing he is ex­cep­tion­ally tal­ented at mu­sic but finds ev­ery­day life hard.

‘‘He does strug­gle. He re­ally does have a hard strug­gle with ev­ery­day life,’’ Mr Mclaren says.

Ju­lian’s mu­si­cal tal­ent was not dis­cov­ered un­til late last year, when he be­gan vi­o­lin lessons with Red­wood teacher Liz Sneyd. De­spite not hav­ing had a sin­gle pi­ano les­son, Ms Sneyd dis­cov­ered by chance that he could repli­cate pieces from mem­ory or just by hear­ing them once.

Ju­lian now plays pi­ano with Ms Sneyd’s or­ches­tra, Welling­ton-based Vir­tu­oso Strings.

‘‘He has such huge tal­ents and strength,’’ Ms Sneyd says. ‘‘Some things it will take me five or six years to teach to an av­er­age stu­dent, Ju­lian can pick up in about five sec­onds.’’

No con­duc­tor is re­quired for Vir­tu­oso Strings’ per­for­mances, as Ju­lian has un­canny tim­ing.

‘‘We call him the hu­man metronome,’’ Ms Sneyd says.

Ju­lian’s play­ing is not cold and math­e­mat­i­cal, how­ever, she says. ‘‘He feels the mu­sic as well. It’s like a para­dox.’’ Teach­ing Ju­lian has its quirks – rou­tine is all- im­por­tant and many things make him anx­ious.

‘‘It’s like teach­ing a highly in­tel­li­gent tod­dler,’’ Ms Sneyd says. ‘‘It’s a big chal­lenge but I ab­so­lutely love it. It’s stu­dents like him who con­tinue to make teach­ing in­ter­est­ing.’’

Her group class, in­clud­ing her own chil­dren, get a kick out of Ju­lian.

‘‘I think it’s re­ally good for the other kids. What you un­der­stand and get to know, you’re not afraid of. When kids play mu­sic with Ju­lian there’s that com­mon ground. They be­come much more ac­cept­ing of dif­fer­ences,’’ she says.

Ju­lian has also shown in­ter­est in cello and flute, Ms Sneyd says. ‘‘I think we’ve only scratched the sur­face of what he’s ca­pa­ble of.’’

Mu­sic is his medium: Autis­tic Ranui teenager Ju­lian Mclaren, left, prac­tises with his mu­sic les­son group, Cather­ine Sneyd-ut­ting, 10, Cedric Doak, Daniel Sneyd-ut­ting, 8, and Ben­jamin Sneyd-ut­ting, 11.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.