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Listen to Our Stories: Words, Pictures, and Songs by Young People with Disabilities
Listen to Our Stories: Words, Pictures, and Songs by Young People with Disabilities



We Sing the Same

Brian Johnson

I knew I had to include songs in this anthology when I learned about Williams syndrome, a genetic condition often characterized in part by unusual musical talent, despite delays in other areas of cognitive development. Many individuals with the syndrome have an innate sense of rhythm and harmony and an outstanding ability to recall and perform the works of others. A striking number have perfect pitch, and a few, like Brian Johnson, also compose music.

Brian was seventeen when he wrote "The Dream Song," the composition by him that I've included here. The dream to which the song refers is one that he had a few days before leaving to attend his first session at the Williams Syndrome Music and Arts Camp at Belvoir Terrace in Lenox, Massachusetts, a camp developed specifically for people with Williams syndrome. As his mother explained to me, "In the song, he's expressing how nervous he felt about going to camp, then arriving and being amazed that others were almost identical to himself, then forming such fantastic friendships and having so much fun that he didn't want the camp to end."

About the important part music has always played in Brian's life, his parents told me, "It would calm him when he was a baby, and he actually sang along with some of our records before he talked. When he was about five years old, we discovered he had perfect pitch and could name the notes played on the piano from across the room. He started piano lessons immediately!" When I was introduced to Brian, about a year after he wrote "The Dream Song," his repertoire had expanded to include playing the guitar and piano, singing both choral music and jazz, and composing songs. Again from his parents: "Brian says that the music is inside him and he just lets it out. When he plays and sings, he feels safe and comfortable. The music belongs to him. It's how he communicates best."

Dream Song by Brian Johnson

Click here to read the words to this song

For more information about the disabilities discussed in this story, please visit the Resource Links page.




spacerLinda Hillyer, compiler and editor of Listen to Our Stories
logo art by Adiyana Paramita
The combined contents of this website are © 2006, 2008 Linda Hillyer. All rights reserved.