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2014 NJCTS Children’s Scholarship Award Essay: “Music Rescued Me”

This is the essay I submitted to the New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome & Associated Disorders (NJCTS) for their 2014 Children’s Scholarship Award contest. I hope you enjoy it!

I am Matt and I am a senior at Red Bank Regional High School. Graduation will be on June 20, 2014. I am in the Visual and Performing Arts Academy as an lnstrumental Music Major. I play clarinet, bass clarinet and saxophone. I also have Tourette Syndrome.

As early as I can remember I had tics. These tics ranged from a lot of eye blinking, to throat clearing, sniffles, and movements from my head and neck. I interrupted quiet class time especially while taking exams due to my vocal throat clearing and sniffles.

When I was in 4th grade I wanted to study the clarinet. I was discouraged all the way until 5th grade due to my tics. Finally, after really practicing a lot, I got good enough to audition for the All Shore Band in Middle School and I won second chair bass clarinet. I showed myself and everyone around me, including my panents, my older brother and all of my teachers that I could overcome Tourette Syndrome.

My neurologist was very helpful to me. He recommended that I stop eating foods with nitrates in them and to also stop eating anything with food dye and keep my sugar intake low. This is very difficult to do as a teenager. I did my best but it was very hard to do. While everyone else was eating hot dogs, cup cakes, Twizzlers and drinking orange soda, I couldn’t.

I was also prescribed medications. These really didn’t seem to help. But I took them. Some made me very tired but I keep taking these medicines thinking how much worse I would be without them.

My clarinet rescued me. I found out that I had perfect pitch. This gift I believed was my compensation for having Tourette Syndrome. In high school I really started achieving musically. I was accepted to the High School All Shore Band, NJ Region 2 Band, All State Band, All Eastern Band (Hartford, Connecticut) and finally the All National Band (Nashville, Tennessee). Yes, I had my tics throughout these accomplishrnents and yes, many times I was disturbing, but I worked through these.

lf it wasn’t for Tourette Syndrome I may not have pushed myself in the beginning and may not have ever discovered that ! have perfect pitch. I did not let this Syndrome stop me. I will be attending Eastman School of Music in the fall.

MattR

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