‘Music is the language he uses’: How Joshua German overcomes autism to become an award-winning pianist
SINGAPORE — Speak to 24-year-old Joshua German and most will find him a man of few words.
His eloquence is reserved for the piano, for when he expresses himself through Beethoven and Ben E King. When his fingers start dancing on the ebony and ivory, it seems as though the chain of songs that emerge will never end — from the Theme from New York, New York to Rhapsody in Blue.
The moment he hears a song he enjoys on YouTube or television, Mr German is at the piano, replicating it perfectly from memory. Within a few hours of experimentation, the Singaporean can play the whole piece by heart.
His musical affinity is surprising given his circumstances, said his grandmother, Mdm Carol Ong.
Mr German, a keen jazz and classical pianist, is diagnosed with autism, a condition that makes it difficult for him to communicate with others, among other symptoms. It also impairs his motor skills, causing his hands and fingers to be stiff.
“He’s very poor with his words. He does not form them easily and he can’t read very well,” Mdm Ong said.
“Many people remember songs by thinking of the lyrics. He remembers songs through the tunes. Music is the language he uses.”
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