Friday, February 27, 2015

When Songwriting Looks Easy

I craned my neck and ears through the receptionist's window to hear exactly what was going on. Whatever happened to one-way glass?

Strumming an easy volley of chords, Reid was writing a song. What?

By himself. Independently. Smoothly.

Not in fits and starts. Not heavily prompted. No carrots dangling.

You may wonder why this is news. Reid has a musician Facebook page, his own website and is about to release Purple Party, his first full-length CD of original songs. But this was different.

Angela wasn't helping. She was watching...and recording it.

She wasn't providing brilliant scaffolding, fill-in-the-blank prompts, or the chord structure. She didn't have the collaborative agenda that made Purple Party possible. Her heavily lifting wasn't happening.

It had been done, make no mistake, in regular weekly doses over the past ten years during their music therapy sessions. She had worked diligently to create the space for this magical moment. That sounded effortless.

Reid extemporized a second verse:

Its time for you to go home and sleep...
What are your dreams for tonight? 
Thank you for coming and...
Goodnight Angela

"What about Emma (the watchful intern)?" was Angela's only reply.

Here's for you Emma. Goodbye Emma
Have a good night don't have any school 
But if you do...make it a good day. 
I'll see you next week at Angela's

"What about Leah (the receptionist outside the closed session room door)?" Okay, maybe Angela was prompting a bit.

Good night Leah
I hope you have a good night
See you next Thursday
I love you, Lelah

Had all the Talk Time interviews about songwriting – with Steve Denyes and Babbie Mason and Angela herself – affirmed and anchored in him what she had been developing all these years? Perhaps.

A tongue twisting bridge emerged like one of those compounding juvenile picture books:

Goodbye Angela Emma Lelah and Reid...

It was easy, like Sunday morning or Michael Buble in a lounge act.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

B2B; Friend to friend

Reid has hired Joel Anderson to design Coloring Pages for each of the songs on his Purple Party CD. Free downloadable pages for kids and adults who like to color will illustrate the song lyrics that Reid and Angela have written for their first full-length recording.

How else could we find a picture of Elmo eating cranberries in a firetruck for the Red Song by Reid?  Or a magician with an Orange Piano and a door that automatically closes? Let alone a people at a Purple Party in polka dot shoes with penguins passing out presents.  Somehow I think Joel can handle these better than any other illustrator.

Joel and his mom Sandi are mentors to Reid and me on many levels. In terms of entrepreneurial skills, parenting, self-advocacy, prayer, micro-enterprise, you name it, they have gone before and paved a way. They are unrivaled in their ability to create, market, and distribute products and services that amplify Joel's unique voice in the world and help others.

Joel gave Reid this caricature as a graduation gift. Don't you love it? These are just a sideline to his animation, book illustration, and painting. He is a renaissance man.

Think global. Buy local. Buy neuro-diversity.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Talk Time with a Muppet

This post originally appeared on Autism Speaks Family Services blog.

As soon as the elevator doors opened, we were 3 years old again! All of us—Mom, Dad, Reid, Allie and cousin Tucker—are over 18, but not too old to jockey for the line leader position. There was so much to take in: the mural of Big Bird on the wall, a bright oversized number “4” sculpture, a furry fuchsia service bell, and the high definition photograph of Grover with a flock of real preschoolers.

We maneuvered to take turns standing on Big Bird's footprints in the carpet of the Sesame Workshop lobby. Every time, it triggered a "Welcome" song from the familiar cast. Count, Rosita, Elmo, and Cookie all sang to us from gold-framed flat screens in a friendly montage on the wall. This was thrilling!

Reid, 20 and on the spectrum, had an appointment to interview Joey Mazzarino, Sesame Street’s head writer and puppeteer of Murray Monster, for his Talk Time with Reid Moriarty podcast. The two of them–or three, rather—hit it off instantly. The rest of us thoroughly enjoyed the show! And you can too by clicking here.

Interviewing a Muppet

Reid’s eyes were peeled as Murray came out of a duffel bag and Joey put him on his arm. This was a new eye contact challenge; Reid was unsure where to look or to whom he was listening.

Murray, the enthusiastic, slightly impulsive, furry, orange puppet who usually roves the five boroughs meeting new people, has a lot in common with Reid. Both of them love the limelight, want to meet Miss Piggy, and frequently exclaim, “That’s awesome!!”

With nary a hiccup, Joey fielded Reid’s novel questions as spontaneously as they were delivered. It was easy to see how Joey had won the Emmy precariously balanced on his desk. A masterful voice talent with a fountain of fresh material spewing forth, he was equally adept at relating to Reid, without a minute of special training. If there were Emmy awards bestowed for kindness, transposing grammar on the fly, filling in voids of social nicety with grace, making erroneous comments meaningful, and explaining BIG concepts in simple terms, he would need more shelves to display them all.

Clearly, this man would excel at Floortime! He could follow a child’s lead anywhere, eagerly, energetically, creatively, engaging their mind the whole way. I am glad he’s the one writing sketches for Abby and the rest of the cast to foster inclusion and autism awareness. He embodies the Sesame Workshop Initiative to “See Amazing in All Children.”

Taking Adult Vocation Beyond the (Pizza) Box

Talk Time with Reid Moriarty is a series of 5-7 minute podcasts with people Reid finds interesting, and you might too! An innate emcee, Reid’s talk-show-host style is direct, comedic and strikes a chord of human interest.

His dad and I conceived of the idea on a dinner date. Reid was graduating from high school about to begin folding pizza boxes at the local transition program. We knew our creative kid with a passion to perform, would need something more. I suggested finding a mentor at a local radio station who might give Reid old PSA’s to recite. My husband, Jim, an advertising executive, blew the idea out of the water by suggesting the market appeal of a radio show similar to Car Talk or Anderson Cooper 360. “It could be great content if Reid interviewed real people and we captured the dialogue with all its misfires. We could throw them up on Soundcloud.”

What did we have to lose? Reid practiced with a few neighbors and the lifeguard at our pool then, we asked Mr. Greg Harris, CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. His immediately willing reply to our cold call was a great encouragement to continue inviting prominent guests all with the filter of Reid’s motivation to meet them and some mutual interest, be it Mexican food or music.

Stay tuned for more bi-weekly Talk Time interviews on Soundcloud, Stitcher and at