Autistic student finally fronts his own band

Apr 28 2011 - 12:41pm

Images

(KRISTIN HEINICHEN/Standard-Examiner)
Michael Powell, 15, an autistic student at West Point Junior High School, is high-fived by his peers after singing three songs for the entire student body as part of one of his dreams Wednesday.
(KRISTIN HEINICHEN/Standard-Examiner)
Michael Powell, 15, an autistic student at West Point Junior High School, is supported by cheering students.
(KRISTIN HEINICHEN/Standard-Examiner)
Michael Powell, 15, an autistic student at West Point Junior High School, sings for the entire student body as part of one of his dreams Wednesday.
(KRISTIN HEINICHEN/Standard-Examiner)
Michael Powell, 15, an autistic student at West Point Junior High School, is high-fived by his peers after singing three songs for the entire student body as part of one of his dreams Wednesday.
(KRISTIN HEINICHEN/Standard-Examiner)
Michael Powell, 15, an autistic student at West Point Junior High School, is supported by cheering students.
(KRISTIN HEINICHEN/Standard-Examiner)
Michael Powell, 15, an autistic student at West Point Junior High School, sings for the entire student body as part of one of his dreams Wednesday.

WEST POINT -- Michael Powell aced his term project as he belted out "Don't Stop Believing," "Born to be Wild" and "Eye of the Tiger" to the West Point Junior High School student body.

Michael, 15, has autism, and every day for the past two years, he has told his choir teacher he was going to have a band.

Around 1:15 p.m. Wednesday, Michael learned his wish was about to come true.

"When I saw the pack of girls, I knew I actually was going to have a band," said Michael, wearing a blue T-shirt with "Michael's Band" on it.

"I was pretty nervous," he said about performing with only 15 minutes' notice.

But his nerves weren't visible as he sang the three songs he had been learning for the past month and a half.

His grandparents, Arleen and Steve Middaugh, of Paradise, sat on the front row for the show featuring band members and fellow classmates Mateah Tuckett, drummer; Brandon Cook, electric guitar; Tony Trueva, bass; and Chandler Thomas, keyboard.

The four had been secretly practicing at 7 a.m. at the school for the past two weeks, said Lori Hayward, choir director.

Hayward told Michael in February that he needed to learn the three songs for his "term project." She then organized her choir students to make posters, T-shirts and banners to let Michael know his talent is appreciated.

Michael "loves to sing," said Mateah, who also taught Michael to play the guitar last year. "It was fun to watch him have fun."

Gage Schneider, Michael's peer tutor, said the short concert "was the best thing in the world for (Michael). He's always wanted a band, and he's always happy."

"We love you, Michael," shouted a group of girls as they walked back to class.

Michael, who was autographing T-shirts, books and arms, shouted back, "I love you, too, girls."

Michael's mother, Carey Powell, kept wiping tears from her face.

"The magnitude of what (Hayward) has done is amazing," she said.

"Thanks for the surprise," Michael said as he hugged Hayward.

The choir director said her idea started as just a band for Michael to sing with, but then it "spiraled" as students made posters and then T-shirts.

At first, it was just going to be an audience of choir members, but teachers brought entire classes to watch the special performance.

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