Bruce loves playing the piano. He is a savant. Bruce does not read music. He plays by ear. He listens to the radio, hears a song, and then he plays it. This innate talent for the 58-year-old man with autism has landed him in the Top 3 finalists for Autism Has Talent, a fundraiser held by the Autism Society San Diego. This is a fundraiser for the Society, and Bruce, a client of Home of Guiding Hands in El Cajon, is in his second year of participating. Last year, he did not advance, but is making a big comeback this year. Many have heard Bruce play at HGH’s annual gala where he plays for attendees during the event’s happy hour.
Bruce said that now that he is in the Top 3, that he feels like “he is ready.”
“I could maybe get a job like this or even go on the radio or TV,” Bruce said. “I was only an infant with a little pink piano that I played then, and then I played my mom’s black grand piano at one and a half to 2-years-old. I was born that way.”
HGH Marketing Manager Pamela Starmack said she was thrilled to hear that Bruce made it into the Top 3 finalists. She said Bruce has been with HGH for many years and was there when she began her work there. Starmack said HGH does not divulge client’s last names due to privacy issues.
“Bruce is a savant and can play anything he hears on the radio,” she said. “He can play all day long on his piano and it feeds his soul. He loves playing for people and sometimes you can catch him singing. He has a sweet disposition and has exceptional manners, and he keeps his piano in his bedroom. Not only does he play for our gala each year, but he also plays at symposiums for people with developmental disabilities.”
Bruce lives with Paige Cox, an HGH adult provider, who entered him in the contest. She said Bruce is nothing short of a “fantastic guy” and a welcomed addition to their extended family. Cox said her husband and she have a 28-year-old son with autism, and provides a home for Nathan, a man with an intellectual disability.
“Nathan is very independent, has a job, rides public transportation, and he is able to go out on his own,” she said. “With my son and Bruce, they have autism and go to a day program. They go to St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center. They have activities there. Sometimes they go out into the community and do jobs, they do art and computer and yoga classes. At home they have simple chores, and they love to walk around the neighborhood to get some exercise.”
Cox said things have been different at home due to the pandemic because they do not have the normal daily activities, but slowly things are opening back up for them.
“This has been very disruptive to their routines, and they are not happy about that because they are very social and miss being with their peers,” she said. “Things are starting to open back up, they are going to St. Madeleine’s for two days a week, their church. The Shelter Church in La Mesa has opened with its group Love Them Up on Tuesday evenings. And I just got a phone call that their bowling league is starting up on Saturdays in September. So, they are all excited about that.”
Final voting for the Top 3 begins on Aug. 12 and ends Aug. 16. The three finalists get a professionally produced and edited video at Rock and Roll San Diego and all three will earn a cash prize. As a fundraiser, voting is $5 per vote with proceeds benefiting the Autism Society and for every five votes, voters are entered to win a Taylor GS Mini Guitar.
To vote for Bruce, visit www.autismsocietysandiego.org.