Singing at Carnegie Hall is a massive accomplishment for any musician, but Ting Perlis could be especially proud of the feat as she is one of the few people with autism to be invited to sing at the prestigious performance center. However, she needed monetary assistance to make it there, and called on her community for support.
Ting initially began singing lessons because her family had been told it could assist her with certain challenges she faced as an autistic child. The singing was successful not only in that manner, but in so much more.
As soon as she began her instruction, her coaches could tell she was something else. She had a beautiful voice, and an equally stunning personality.
She soon became one of the Hummingbird Conservatory's brightest students, and found much more than an artistic outlet with therapeutic benefits - but a medium to showcase a talent she never even knew she had.
Her mother, Deborah Perlis, explained why she initially visited the conservatory, which she saw out of the corner of her eye one day "like many people on the spectrum, day-to-day life can be a little bit more difficult than it is for others. It's overwhelming." She felt as if she saw her daughter's condition deteriorating, but knew that she was often singing under her breath, so she decided to take a chance. She went on to say, "I brought my daughter there because I just wanted her to be happy. I didn't think she had any secret talent. I wanted to give her something to feel good about and look forward to."
Perlis then had the joy of watching how her daughter transformed during her time at the conservancy, and was so pleased to see the transition to a more confident young woman. She says, "she's an entirely different person. Music didn't open the world to her, it opened her up to the world."
As a parent, Perlis' biggest goal is to see her child happy and fulfilled, so she is ceaselessly grateful that they were able to offer her this opportunity, and that it went forward so successfully.
A teacher's view
Tara Wallace, Ting's voice teacher, says that she saw potential in Ting from their very first session. As they went on, she could see how eager Ting was to improve and how much singing meant to her. As a result, she nominated her for Carnegie Hall's High School Honors Performance Series. The program is dedicated to giving youth with specific talents the opportunity of a lifetime, performing with the most respected conductors in the business, in one of the most beloved venues in the business.
Wallace went on to explain how much of an honor this was, saying, "to be a 14-year-old chosen from a global selection of sopranos to sing at Carnegie Hall is really quite a mark."
Needless to say, Ting herself was very honored by the news. It made her feel as if she had truly accomplished something amazing, and that her autism was not defining her, but her beautiful singing voice instead. She even told her mother, "when I sing, nobody sees the autism."
She said, "I'm kind of still processing it, because it's kind of hard to believe that I got selected."
Deborah agreed, and said that the opportunity spoke volumes. She explained how she looked at it, "(people say,) 'don't expect them to do these things' or, 'You're going to have to readjust your dreams for your children. To me, it was validation." Deborah wants other parents to know that they do not have to, and should not, give up on the dreams they have for their children - as they can still come true, and more. Ting is proving that any dream can be achieved for those with autism, and that they do not have to alter their expectations of themselves or others just because they have autism.
Ting explains her relationship with singing, and how she got to this point, "I love singing ... even though sometimes it can be really hard. Once I learn a song, it's really satisfying to know that I learned it even though it might have been a really hard song - like I would literally be bawling right in the middle of my session."
Unfortunately, while getting the opportunity to sing at Carnegie Hall is extremely rare, it was not the most difficult part of her battle. She needed to raise the money to be able to sing there. She needed to be able to afford the transport, as well as the lodging, in New York city for her and her mother.
Therefore, the duo began a GoFundMe campaign to call on their community members and friends to help them out. Every little donation inched them forward to this once in a lifetime opportunity. Their goal was to raise $6,000 total for the trip.
Ting's mother addressed the call to action on the GoFundMe account to friends, family, and autism warrior everywhere. She went on to explain a little bit about how much of an honor it is for Ting to be invited to such a tremendous event, and noted, "this is an incredible accomplishment for any performer, let alone a 14 year old with autism whose love of singing has transcended her diagnosis. As her voice teacher Tara Wallace has said, 'asking Ting not to sing is like asking her not to breath[e].' Not only is this an amazing opportunity for Ting as a singer, but just importantly, it is a chance for her to show the world that autism is a label, not a limitation. Ting has an opportunity to represent individuals with autism around the world and show them that they are strong enough to live their dreams."
She went on to explain that she had to put her pride aside to ask others for financial assistance, as she would love to be able to afford it herself as a mother. However, she knew that she could not let that get in the way. She says, "while I wish that as her mother I did not have to ask for financial help, the reality is, I can't let my pride get in the way of this amazing opportunity for Ting. Any contribution you could make would bring Ting that much closer to this once-in-a-lifetime experience. If you are unable to donate, please feel free to leave an encouraging word for Ting as she nervously embarks on this amazing journey to NYC!"
Fortunately, friends, family, and community members answered the call to action, and were able to make this dream come true. Over five months, the $6,000 goal was raised by 106 different people, with amounts ranging from $5 to $570. Not only was this crucial in enabling Ting to make her visit, but it did wonders for her self-confidence going into the experience. Both Ting and her mother felt incredibly fortunate that so many people cared for her enough to make such donations and impact her life in that manner. Many of the donations were matched with equally precious messages of encouragement and congratulations.