Charles Domergue

This is my student, Charles. I’ve been teaching him for the past 4 years. He is autistic and nonverbal. He’s 29. He’s never spoken a word in his life. He is agitated most of the time and can’t sit still or concentrate on any one thing.

He lives in an assisted living home. His Dad hires me to sing to him every week because music is the one thing that seems to interest Charles and get him to focus, and calm down. Charles especially loves Johnny Cash songs, so I sing a lot of those, but I also sing songs of many diverse styles for him.

This past week I did something I’ve never done before with him. I decided to be more interactive. We did the hokey pokey. I had no idea how he would respond. I did not expect any interaction. Because he doesn’t often respond like most people do, I’ve never known if Charles could understand my words when I speak to him. But low and behold— Charles had a complete breakthrough!!!!! For the first time ever in his life, Charles responded to words and confirmed he understands spoken language! 

From his Dad after he saw the video I sent:

‘I just saw it and I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so connected to a person! Was truly amazing. You must try again and let me in on the magic. How beautiful and touching! Thank you so much for this gift. You are incredible!!!’

I cannot put into words the feeling of happiness this brings me. I’ve been teaching voice and songwriting since 2004. My students range from children and teens to aspiring songwriters to quite accomplished artists. Some of my students use music as medicine. I’ve worked with the terminally ill and trauma survivors and witnessed incredible music born from adverse circumstance. Each student is on their own unique journey. I learn something important from each and every student. I am endlessly inspired!

Especially by Charles.