As he sits down at the grand piano he will play the next day, Matt Savage says, almost to himself, “I love Bach and Beethoven but, as a pianist, I also really enjoy playing Chopin,” and then softly begins to play Debussy’s Clair de Lune, at someone’s request.
A far cry from his first performances.
“The first tunes I remember were picking out nursery rhymes on the toy xylophone piano,” he says.
That was before his parents knew he occupied a spot on the autism spectrum. Though, just knowing that doesn’t tell you a whole lot.
“There’s a famous quote in our industry that if you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism because just like all people, we’re individuals and we’re unique and people on the spectrum are unique, as well,” says Selena Johnson, of ABC of NC, an organization that advocates for and provides services to people with autism.
ABC puts on a popular lunch fundraiser each year and usually invites someone whose life has been touched by the condition as the main speaker. This year, they decided to do something different by having someone on the spectrum as their speaker – Savage.
Savage is a concert jazz pianist who plays almost as if it takes no effort – though he’ll be the first to tell you that his skill was honed over years of classical training and practice. But he does admit that there may be some advantages from being on the spectrum, when it comes to his musical talent.
“It’s easy for me to visualize a lot of notes while I’m playing,” he says. “Over the course of my life, overcoming autism, I’ve always known to just find my goals and stay with them.”
Hear Savage play in this edition of the Buckley Report.