Two years ago, “06880” profiled Ethan Walmark. The 6-year-old — on the autism spectrum, as a very high-functioning child — played and sang “Piano Man” in a YouTube video. It went viral (over 1.5 million views), and Ethan was an international star.
A lot has happened since.
Billy Joel called Ethan’s intro “better than mine.” Ethan performed live on the “Today Show.” He was 1 of only 14 people worldwide — and the youngest — to receive a “Genius of Autism” award. (Then he won it again.) The Huffington Post named him 1 of 20 “Child Prodigies.”
He helped Yoko Ono flip the switch to light the Empire State Building blue for World Autism Awareness Day. Ethan looked her in the eye and said, “Imagine a world without autism!”
Meeting Ethan before a concert, John Mayer said, “Hey, I know you! You’re the internet sensation!”
Ethan’s performance of “Eminence Front” brought down the house — at a Who show.
Clearly, Ethan rocks.
He’s got plenty of talent, for sure. And — after his parents enrolled him in Fairfield’s School of Rock — Ethan’s cognition, social abilities and musicality soared.
Now, Ethan — the resident “rock star” of Kings Highway Elementary School –brings his international talents to his home town.
This Saturday (March 22, 6:30 p.m.), 2 bands — Clueless and Pearl — perform at Toquet Hall. All musicians play at the School of Rock. All are from Westport and Fairfield.
Ethan — now 8 — is the youngest participant. By 5 years.
The bands play music by Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers, Black Crowes, Santana and more. Many of the songs relate in some way to people on the autism spectrum.
Last November, the School of Rock house band drummer asked Ethan’s mother, Allison Ziering Walmark, if Ethan could join them in the concert.
“School of Rock fosters an atmosphere of acceptance and respect, regardless of musical ability,” she says. “Ethan truly considers his bandmates his friends, and vice versa. The mere concept of friendship can be so foreign to people on the autism spectrum.”
A few days later, the band sent Allison another email: They wanted the concert to be a benefit for Autism Speaks.
If that doesn’t make your heart sing, nothing will.