Former Boston Conservatory Student on the Autism Spectrum to Perform in NYC
Gianna Hitsos, a talented singer and former student of the Boston Conservatory's Private Music Lessons program for individuals on the autism spectrum, will perform in the Broadway Benefit for Autism Speaks at the Gershwin Theatre in New York City on June 20.
Hitsos will be among a group of performers on the autism spectrum singing "If the World Only Knew," with a choir of Broadway professionals and others. The Benefit for Autism Speaks will be hosted by Broadway star Kelli O'Hara, who won a 2015 Best Actress Tony Award for The King and I.
New York composer Scott Evan Davis, who wrote the song for children with autism, asked Hitsos to record a video of herself singing it last year. The organizers of the Benefit for Autism Speaks event came across Hitsos's YouTube video and offered her the honor of singing the first lines of the song and saying a few words about what music has done to transform her life.
“This is a wonderful achievement for Gianna and for our efforts to provide broad access to music and performance,” said Rhoda Bernard, chair of music education and director of The Boston Conservatory's Programs for Students on the Autism Spectrum. “It recognizes not only her talent and hard work, but the potential of all young people with learning challenges to achieve and grow through music.”
Hitsos started speaking when she was a toddler, but abruptly stopped. Her parents noticed that she started showing other physical signs of a child on the autism spectrum, and she was formally diagnosed at the age of two.
While Hitsos had difficulty expressing herself, her parents noticed that she had both a love and a talent for singing, particularly Disney musicals. They brought her to The Boston Conservatory in 2008, just as Bernard was establishing the school’s Programs for Individuals on the Autism Spectrum and the first class of the Private Music Lessons program.
Hitsos joined the Private Music Lessons in 2009 and participated in the program for five years, during which time she flourished both musically and personally. Now a sophomore at Gordon College studying music and French, her singing talent has already landed her some remarkable opportunities to share her gift: in 2015, she was invited to sing “God Bless America” in right field at Fenway Park during a Red Sox; she also sang at the gala for the 2015 Commonwealth Awards, Massachusetts’ highest honor in arts, humanities and sciences, which was awarded to The Boston Conservatory in the Access category for its groundbreaking work on making the arts accessible to everyone.
The Conservatory’s Private Music Lessons program was established in 2007 and pairs individuals on the autism spectrum with Boston Conservatory Music Education graduate students for weekly music lessons. Lessons are offered in voice, piano, percussion, guitar, strings, woodwinds, and brass instruments, as well as music theory and composition. Financial aid is available to families who qualify.