News Article Details

Goodwill to give 'gift of music' to autistic individuals

Bradenton Herald - 8/20/2017

Aug. 20--MANATEE -- "When you were born you didn't know

your tears would never dry.

When you were born you didn't know that

everybody dies. When you were born

You didn't know that love was going to hurt

but you found out soon enough what loving's worth."

From "When You Were Born, " words and music by Jennifer Msumba

Lyrics and melodies flow through the brain of Jennifer Msumba, who has autism, like water from an underground spring.

Late at night, when the flood comes, the artist, who declined to reveal her age, gets out of bed and, with a pencil and paper as a container, she captures a cupful or two.

That's what happened one night recently when Msumba got up and quickly wrote, "When You Were Born."

"I had been having some rough days and I was in bed and it was late and these words were in my head and I picked up my guitar and started writing them down," Msumba said Thursday from Music Compound in Sarasota where she performs monthly, with a goal of becoming a music star. "And they just kept coming. I called my mom at midnight and made her listen to it."

Msumba lives in a community living facility in Wauchula in Hardee County where she is learning the skills she needs to transition to adult independent living. Her autism, along with obsessive compulsive disorder, have created some barriers to independence, she said.

But music has helped.

Msumba expresses herself on her YouTube Channel called, "Hey, look it's The Piano Girl," which is also the name of her blog. She has had more than 9,000 hits on her YouTube site and enjoys the check she gets from YouTube.

Msumba discovered by Goodwill

Vernonica Brandon Miller, vice president of Goodwill Manasota, heard Msumba perform recently when Msumba was a contestant for the recent "SRQ's Got Talent" held in Sarasota, and Brandon Miller was a judge.

The event was held at Music Compound, which provides an environment where people of all ages can pursue a love of music through workshops, private and group lessons, studio rentals, concerts and open mic nights at 1751 Cattleman Road, Sarasota, said Jenny Townsend, president and owner of Music Compound.

Msumba sang "When You Were Born" at the talent show.

"This brilliant lady got up and sang a song that she wrote and it was heart-wrenching," Brandon Miller said Thursday. "I remember crying. And I fell in love and I found out the reason behind the song and found out that Jennifer has autism, and a lot of our team members at Goodwill have autism.

"She flourishes so much because of music. She is one of the most talented people I have ever met. Besides playing the guitar, she plays the piano and other instruments and writes her own music. She opened my eyes."

Msumba's performance motivated Brandon Miller to sit down with Townsend and discuss a partnership.

"I thought, 'What if our team members would flourish with music in their lives?' " Brandon Miller said.

Goodwill will partner Music Compound

Brandon Miller wanted to know if music really helped autism and she began to research the topic.

"The American Music Therapy Association has compiled a comprehensive list of various studies that clearly show the benefits of music in helping people with autism to reach their full potential," Brandon Miller said.

The Goodwill and Music Compound partnership has become a reality and will begin in about a week when about six Goodwill Manasota team members come to Music Compound to work with Msumba.

"We feel this partnership will offer a unique opportunity for our team members to benefit from the therapeutic effects of music, just as Jennifer has," Brandon Miller said.

Msumba said that music is therapeutic for her.

"I'm more sensitive to noises and sometimes it's hard for me to get out what I am feeling," Msumba said. "It's kind of a different way of seeing the world. Sometimes it's a benefit. Since I am more sensitive I can play any song if I hear it. But it's also hard sometimes if I am in a loud place or sometimes I get really anxious."

"That's why the music is so great for her," Townsend said. "With the music she gets to express herself."

"Yes, I used to play the piano all the time to express my feelings," Msumba said. "I don't know what made me but one day I decided to start writing things down because sometimes bad things would happen to me and I wanted to express that and I wrote it in a song, the same song I played at the competition."

Local music students like Msumba and perhaps the Goodwill team members, can also get stage experience at Music Compound the second Friday of every month in Studio 32, the Music Compound's 3,000-square-foot concert venue.

"Performing is also very therapeutic," Townsend said.

The theme of the Sept. 8 event is "Singer-Songwriter" and will feature all original music by local musicians including compositions performed by Msumba.

Information -- Goodwill: 941-355-2721; Music Compound:, 941-379-9100.


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