“Music is a big deal to Tommy,” explained Will Sondgerath, a dad of two sons with autism.
Will is also an autism advocate and he and his wife love sharing music and fun with their two boys. Often times, the family from Lafayette, Indiana will have DJ battles in the car to make the trip more fun. They take turns picking which song they want to play, their youngest son Tommy truly cherishes this time.
16-year-old Tommy is a sophomore at Harrison High School and a recent video of him during a choir performance has gone viral.
Tommy plays basketball at school but his favorite passion is singing and performing with the Intermediate Choir. No matter what he’s doing though, whether it’s on the basketball court or the stage, Tommy is known for giving his all into every performance.
Tommy’s music teacher, Jaclyn Richardson, saw the passion in Tommy and offered him a duet with a fellow student named Kris Wilkerson for their school’s Spring Choir Concert. The teen boy was delighted about the opportunity.
Jaclyn’s choir group is open to any and all students. In fact, there are around 7 kids in the class that have special needs, including Tommy.
What’s even more amazing is that Jaclyn even encourages non-verbal kids to join in with the performances. She says it’s great for them to experience what it’s like to perform in front of a live audience.
“Being around music offers them an inclusion-based class that is stimulating and fun,” she explains.
For the big spring event, students nominate songs they’d like to perform and then they vote on which ones make the cut. They also compete to see who gets to perform a solo and Tommy received that honor! He’s the second student with special needs to do so.
Just one day before the concert, Kate and Will learned that their son would be performing a short segment of “A Million Dreams,” the show tune made famous by Hugh Jackman in the film “The Greatest Showman.”
Kate quickly downloaded the song and got to work with Tommy on memorizing all of the lyrics. Tommy was dedicated and focused – it wasn’t long before he learned the song by heart.
Come the night of the big performance, Tommy was absolutely beside himself with happiness, excitement, and anticipation. Thank goodness Will had the camera rolling for the epic performance.
As the video starts, you can see Tommy’s excitement as he dances – enthusiasm is just bursting inside of him.
Soon, it was time for Tommy and Kris, his duet partner, to step up to the microphone. Tommy passionately belts out his portion of the song, pumping his arms after every line, clearly overwhelmed with excitement.
The crowd’s reaction was wonderful. At first, there was some chuckling due to Tommy’s pure enthusiasm. But Tommy celebrates his amazing performance by flexing muscles and giving the thumbs up. The crowd is just in love with the happy teen!
The crowd burst into cheers and applause, sending Tommy over the moon.
“We did not know what to expect,” Will said later. “We were both floored by his performance. We both had ‘happy tears,’ as Tommy calls them.”
“Kate and I were a lot more nervous than he was. Tommy knew the song, but we knew there would be a difference between singing amongst your peers and singing a duet in front of everyone.”
Will shared his son’s performance on Twitter with the caption, “This is what #inclusion looks like at Harrison HS.”
Overnight, the autism advocacy organization Autism Speaks had shared the video with their millions of followers. Tommy had a feeling he’d have some fans at school the next day, but he had no idea just how many fans he’d gain across the world.
Within one week, the video went viral. Tommy’s happy performance was viewed by over half a million people. His smile and excitement were just so contagious.
“While we are not surprised by the reactions of our friends – and Tommy’s friends’ reactions – we are surprised by the wonderful comments and notes of support we have received from complete strangers all across the country,” he said.
Watch Tommy’s incredible duet and solo performance in the video below. You’ll be grinning ear to ear.
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