Music has the power to stir up vivid memories, unlock creativity, inspire the unmotivated, and evoke within us the entire spectrum of human emotion. It connects people across cultures and eras and helps us celebrate, mourn, and entertain. On occasion, it aids us in showcasing subpar dance moves.
In certain instances, music facilitates healing. Such is the case for 13-year-old Trey Vincent.
Trey’s life was filled with music even before his autism diagnosis at age two. Right around the time Trey’s mother, Marthajane Vincent, began noticing her son’s atypical development, she also observed his natural inclination toward music.
Trey did not make eye contact, became stiff when comforted, remained nonverbal and ignored others speaking to him. But he paid attention to The Wiggles and Baby Einstein videos.
“One thing we hit on that he really engaged with was music,” Marthajane said. “He would clap his hands and do normal baby things while listening.”
Entering neurologic music therapy as a toddler strengthened Trey’s social functioning and cognitive skills, according to Marthajane. In Trey’s program, the music therapist’s guitar playing gave the children something to interact around. Through peer modeling, Trey learned how to pick up on social cues. While playing the percussion in music therapy, Trey worked on crossing the midline. By following certain rhythms and instructions, Trey developed his motor skills and improved his left-right brain connections. Music therapy can help individuals across the autism spectrum.
“Music therapy is a very specific science,” Marthajane said. “It’s not just somebody coming to sit on the floor and play with your kid.”
Prior to music therapy, Trey was very sensitive to specific noises. Vacuums, blenders and barking dogs “would set him over the edge,” according to Marthajane.
At least 75 percent of children with autism have symptoms associated with Sensory Processing Disorder, according to the STAR Institute. This means they may be overly-sensitive or under-responsive to auditory stimuli.
Trey “was on a roll” once he began speaking in complete sentences at age four, according to Marthajane. After his symptoms started to decrease, Trey introduced himself to singing.
In kindergarten, Trey entered and won the K-8 talent show after performing “Dancing Queen.” As a kid, he was more interested in movies like Mamma Mia
“Because of the way he performed at such a young in front of the entire school with no fear,”
Marthajane said, “we realized he had a gift.”
That gift was put on full display once more when he auditioned for the Phoenix Boys Choir. There, Trey was told that he has “perfect pitch.”
It’s been pretty smooth sailing ever since. Trey still encounters minor issues recovering when upset, but nothing that will “hamper his ability to thrive,” according to Marthajane.
“He learns music, reproduces it and arranges it to his voice so quickly,” Marthajane said. “His skill and ability increase on a daily basis.”
Nowadays, Trey Vincent commands the stage like a seasoned musician. He effortlessly switches from guitar to ukulele midway through a recent show at Tucson's Berger Performing Arts Center. His repertoire ranges from Foster the People to Pink Floyd. While Trey’s all-time favorite band is The Beatles, he is also into “grungy-punky type stuff.”
So far, Trey has penned five full songs and has “a lot more” in progress. He also plays the keyboard, bass, trumpet, baritone, tuba, harmonica and Djembe.
Trey is the drummer of Insert Title Here, the punk rock band he formed with three of his choir
“I like the look on the audience’s faces when I’m performing,” Trey said. “Having complete control over what I say, what I sing and what I play is just the best feeling ever.”
The impact music has had on Trey’s life is evident. Not only has it had healing effects on Trey’s autism symptoms, but it has also served as the foundation upon which he has personally
“My number one goal is being a rock star or band member playing in stadiums,” Trey said. “And my backup for that is music therapy because it helped me so much.”
And his backup after that? To be a “regular music teacher.”