Tony DeBlois is an experienced musician especially for a man of only 40 years old.
He is an accomplished musician, teaching himself how to play 22 instruments and sings in 11 languages.
He is an accomplished human being because he did all of this while also being blind and autistic.
He started the piano when he was just two years old, an impressive feat for someone born only 1 lb and 3/4 ounces. But DeBlois is what you would call a savant: he knows over 10,000 songs by memory and has traveled all around the world to show people, “It’s ok to be different.”
On Tuesday night, DeBlois was the special guest of St. Thomas Aquinas in West Lafayette. The concert was free, but donations were being taken to benefit Autism Speaks, an advocacy group for autism awareness.
He took the stage quietly and those who did not know he was disabled would not have known by watching him.
He made the audience laugh, he invoked full participation, and, most importantly, he showed what can be accomplished though ambition and perseverance.
The audience responded best when DeBlois switched to guitar and began playing “Johnny B. Goode.” In practically no time at all, he had everyone clapping along and finished to a rousing applause. The audience anxiously awaited the next song and when it was announced, gaps would go up in the audience from children who “know that song!” to adults who “have never heard it that way before.”
A movie was made about DeBlois’ life in 1997 titled, “Journey of the Heart” and features a cameo of DeBlois playing at the end.
DeBlois’ performance coincides with National Autism Awareness month.