Kid pianist's plea: Come to Brevard autism benefit, Taylor Swift!
8-year-old pianist to perform
BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – When 8-year-old pianist Jacob Velazquez performs on the Space Coast this weekend, don't even think about trying to sit in one of his two reserved spots.
"I’m saving Taylor Swift a seat in the front," the second-grader from Broward County declared in a video submitted to News 6 partner Florida Today. "And Taylor, if you’re watching, since you invited me to your concert, I want to invite you to mine."
(Oh, and Yanni? There's a place for you, too. Since you're Jacob's favorite composer and all.)
Decked out in a fedora pulled over his shoulder-length brunette tresses, Jacob wrapped up his short video message to his musical idols, turning to his piano to show Brevard — and Taylor and Yanni — what they can expect. He will perform during two free concerts with the Space Coast Symphony Orchestra.
Jacob's gift stretches beyond being an artist who's been at it since age 4. It also serves as a testament that a diagnosis of autism doesn't have to be a roadblock.
He'll be performing during two free concerts with the orchestra on the Space Coast this weekend, with proceeds being split between The Scott Center for Autism at Florida Institute of Technology and the nonprofit Autism Speaks. The concerts are:
7 p.m. Saturday at the Gleason Performing Arts Center, Florida Tech, 150 W. University Blvd., Melbourne
3:30 p.m. Sunday at Riverside Presbyterian Church, 3400 N. Atlantic Ave., Cocoa Beach
Jacob was diagnosed with high-functioning autism around the time he discovered his passion for the piano. His talent caught the attention of a local news crew at age 5, and soon he went viral, performing on "Good Morning America" and "The View."
The youngster, often referred to as a musical prodigy, belongs to the National Musicians Guild, has appeared in variety of venues (he recently performed the National Anthem at a Miami Heat game) and has his own album out, meshing classical music with a contemporary flair.
"I really can’t wait," Jacob said of this weekend's plans. "And I’m really excited to show people that just because you have autism doesn’t mean you’re not capable of great things, but it means we’re unique and different. And to quote Taylor Swift again, ‘If you’re lucky enough to be different, don’t ever change.’"
Conductor and artistic director Aaron Collins said in a statement that the timing was perfect.
"April is National Autism Awareness Month," Collins said. "And what better way to close out the month than to let the immense talent of one small boy demonstrate the untapped potential within so many kids born with autism."
Jacob's parents agree.
"Just because someone has a diagnosis doesn’t meant they’re not capable of great things," said Willie Velazquez, Jacob's father. "We hope he can touch a lot of families that are affected by (autism)."
Jacob's video medley of him performing seven Taylor Swift songs scored him a tweet from the superstar last year — and an invite to a concert in October.
"He can be sensitive to noise," said mom, Tina, who brought headphones to the concert in case of sensory overload, which is common with kids on the spectrum.
But Jacob did just fine, despite being overly tired. Added perk? He met Swift backstage. After, he had a declaration for his mom.
"I’m going to perform onstage with her someday," she recounted.
To reserve a free ticket to either concert, call 855-252-7276 or visit SpaceCoastSymphony.org. Learn more about Jacob at jacobvelazquez.com.
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