Video: Carlos is beat-ing the effects of autism

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Peterborough-based world class drummer and percussionist Carlos Parlato has worked with Christina Aguilera, Shakira, Ricky Martin and Gloria Estefan.

But you sense that his biggest achievement is the work he has done in bringing people with autism out of their shells through ‘drum therapy.’

Carlos Parlato at his Drumming School in Fengate which is to hold an open day at the end of the month. Photo: Rowland Hobson

Carlos Parlato at his Drumming School in Fengate which is to hold an open day at the end of the month. Photo: Rowland Hobson

Speaking from Tano Music Academy - which is changing its name from drum academy to reflect the widening choice of instruments of its users - Argentinian-born Carlos spoke of his pride in teaching youngsters both musical and communication skills.

This week he is playing with an electro tango band in the O2, Arena in London, followed by trips to Germany, France, Italy and Belgium.

But the foreign journeys are becoming rarer as he turns his attention to youngsters of all abilities in Peterborough.

Each student who attends the academy off Vicarage Farm Road gets one to two hours of tuition a week, and 10 per cent of those are on the autistic spectrum.

Carlos Parlato with Lorna Stockdale  at his Drumming School in Fengate which is to hold an open day at the end of the month. Photo: Rowland Hobson

Carlos Parlato with Lorna Stockdale at his Drumming School in Fengate which is to hold an open day at the end of the month. Photo: Rowland Hobson

The Drum therapy uses techniques of drumming practice to teach hand/eye coordination, visual perception, and balance/movement. Improving each of these can reduce anxiety and behavioural problems, and can help with emotional control.

There is also evidence that drumming can support language skills such as categorization, turn taking, problem solving and following directions.

And interestingly students with autism can often become session musicians because they are more competent at learning tracks from a CD than a mainstream student.

One autistic student in particular, a 14-year-old lad, has improved leaps and bounds since joining the academy five months ago, having never played drums before.

A recent impressive recording of the student playing Gary Moore on his guitar (one of three instruments he enjoys) in tandem with a female drummer proves the point.

Carlos said: “Playing alongside someone and talking to them has helped his communication a lot, because outside of the class he doesn’t speak to people in this way.

“With the students I firstly need to psychologically ‘open the door’ and check the student is happy for me to go in. If the student ‘shuts the door’ I start again. A lot depends on the mood of the student when they arrive; do they want to play today? If not we don’t play but examine other areas of tuition.

“Patience is the key to earning the trust - make a connection, then wait and repeat this until the connection is verified.”

Carlos hopes that, whether his students use playing an instrument as a hobby, a passion, or a career choice, they can take what they have gathered into their future lives.

Born in 1963 into a musical family he said his first experience of the ‘drums’ was when his mother Franca, frustrated at her one-year-old crying in his cot, gave him a saucepan and two wooden spoons to bang.

His father and uncles also encouraged him to bring music into his life, and he eventually moved on to the Berklee College of Music in the United States.

He worked for Warners as resident drummer, but also spent years teaching in both mainstream schools and for children with autism in Buenos Aires.

He qualified as a professor of drums and percussion in 1988, and eventually found his way to England, teaching at Orton Longueville School.

Worldwide digital communications mean that travel is no longer a necessity, as musicians can play, produce and record in the studio simultaneously with artists from across the world.

Carlos, who has been working with consultant Lorna Stockdale to promote his work, said: “My first teacher is my heart, and its love for music. “Everyone plays music, it doesn’t matter about religion or culture or colour of skin. If you don’t have music your life is empty, that’s my ideology.”

The academy is holding an open day on May 30, from 11am to 8pm. The event is suitable for anyone with an interest in music.

For more information on the open day, lessons, or visiting the studios, go to www.eltanodrums.com or telephone 01733 873147.