20 year old with autism seeks to play organs around the world

Dallas, Texas-Recent high school graduate and person with autism, Brian Hataway recently won ten free pipe organ lessons from Southern Methodist University Professor and Highland Park Methodist Organist Bradly Hunter. Hataway had been displaying his musical talent for his local church Garland Baptist for the past six years.

Hataway was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum with Pervasive Developmental Disorder at 2. At age 11 he grew curious about musical keyboards which prompted his mother, Carol, to buy him a Casio. In an interview with Dallas Morning News Carol noted that her son preferred the Casio to the family piano. At age 14 Hataway turned his musical musings to the pipe organ, at instrument that caught his eye at Garland Baptist Church. At first sight he knew he had to give it a shot.

The church’s organist Richard Ponder remembers Hataway watching the organ intently. Some Sundays later Brain Hataway asked to give it a whirl. Ponder says,

“He played a one-finger tune. You should have seen his face. He lit up.”

With the help of Ponder the Hataway’s have their own organ that sits in their living room. Brian Hataway is studious. When he’s not watching organ lessons on Youtube he would watch his favorite movie The Phantom of the Opera, trying his best to learn what he could from the famed opera. The Hataways have plans to see the opera live when it comes to Windspear Opera House in August.

But what’s most amazing about Brian’s organ playing is that he’s doing it all by ear. He carries a sheet to the organ with him, Ponder says, but he never reads from it. Instead he plays from memory, letting his ears lead his fingers. On May 28th Hataway received the Tommy Tranchin Award, which supports North Texas High School students with physical, emotional, or intellectual differences.

Hataway has since graduated Garland High School and plans to attend a program in it’s Transition Learning Center to learn life skills. But he’s not done with organs yet. As he told Dallas Morning News:

“Hopefully, I get out of the country. Because there are hundreds of pipe organs all over the world and I have only seen them in pictures.”

The original article by Hannah DeClerk from the Dallas Morning News can be read here.

Contributed by Audrey L. Hollingshead