In my attempt to block out painful sounds, I had also failed to develop a sense of musical pitch. Not knowing this, I signed up for the school chorus. The first week, the director, Mr. Williams, asked me to sing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" at my audition. He winced at my rendition. "Let's try it again," he said as he ran his hands through his short black hair, "and this time, try to stay on key and listen for my pitch."
I struggled through the nursery song once more. Then my teacher managed a strained smile as he slightly shook his head. "Have you considered an extra study hail?" Mr. Williams hinted.
Unfortunately, such hinting tends to go over my head, even now, even as it does with many people with autism. I said, "No," unwilling to disappoint such a nice teacher by dropping his class for study hall.
I returned to chorus the next day. Apparently, Mr. Williams took pity on me, because he allowed me to stay.
One afternoon in November, Mr. Williams stood in front of the class, loudly cleared his throat, and announced, "Class, we have a Christmas Program scheduled in three weeks. Your participation, while not mandatory, will be appreciated." He paused, looking at his shoes momentarily. "As incentive, I am willing to guarantee an 'A' to anyone who is willing to participate in the program. The department needs the funds and we need a good showing to impress the community."
I felt glad and hurriedly went up to volunteer, convinced that he needed all the volunteers he could get. Mr. Williams grinned impishly as he glanced toward his assistant, who could only shrug in return. Mr. Williams then put his hand on my shoulder and whispered, "You can participate, but don't strain your voice by singing loud." Touched by his concern for my health, I agreed to do as he suggested. I sang, happily, but very softly.
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