Nov 4     21 min read

Autistic Musician Shares Music, Passion, & Job Coach Support

Updated: Dec 1

Enrique is a client at IRL’s Transition and Adult Services (TAS) program.  In this podcast, Enrique shares his experience with TAS, his internship with Jazz Hands for Autism to become a Teacher, his passion for music and teaching drums, bass, piano, and guitar, and his job coach support through TAS.

Jamie:  0:20 

Welcome to I am Able. We are kicking off our new podcast series because March is National Developmental Disabilities Awareness month. This month is intended to raise awareness about the inclusion of people with disabilities and the trials and successes they face on a daily basis. According to the CDC, 61 million adults in the United States live with a disability 26% or about one in four of all adults in the United States have some type of disability. For those fortunate enough to have a job, their annual salary is about $15,000. Transition adult services. A program of the Institute for the redesign of learning supports 34 clients working throughout the community. We kick off our series with interviews from three adult clients supported by transition adult services. I’m Jamie Lord Tovar, and I’m here with Enrique aid. Hi, Enrique, how are you today?

Enrique:  1:23 

I’m doing good. I’m doing good. It’s a good Monday.

Jamie:  1:28 

Yeah, happy Monday.

Enrique:  1:31 

Happy Monday.

Jamie:  1:33 

So Ricky, I was wondering, can you tell me how you got started with IRL.

Enrique:  1:38 

So I am with IRL through the regional center, I have a I have a an internship program doing an internship program. And so they are responsible for all my, you know, the PE stuff, but also they provide me a job coach too. That helps with my internship. And so I’m doing this internship with a with a company called Jazz hands for autism. And I know the founder, CEO, and they are really cool. And their music, music like almost like a music training program. And they have they have like people on their staff who go out and find job opportunities for you know, people on the spectrum, but not just people in this position any any anybody’s interested in music that has some sort of special needs. And so that that’s their, that’s jazz hands. That’s their like, background, and they also put on this concert series, which is really cool. I used to I used to perform in those. But right now they’re there. I’m going through a teacher training program with them. So that’s what the internship is. The actual actual, the work that I’m doing is I’m working with kids every week from non public schools like Kane Eris right now I’m doing I have two two students from Kane areas. And maybe Westmoreland. Eventually, when they start opening up, I heard pretty soon they’re gonna get back into into classes and all that. So that’s going to be exciting. So yeah, that’s what I’m doing. That’s the internship is I’m sitting down once a week with about two students from cane areas. And we’re just doing Guitar Lessons For now.

Jamie:  3:16 

How long is the internship for is it for a couple months or a year? It’s open ended

Enrique:  3:24 

Check ins every I think we do check ins every three months to see, you know where we’re at. And if I’d like to keep going, if they if they have any more opportunities for me, I think that’s the timeframe is three months we do or I think it’s like, I think six months. It’s some sort of three, but yes, I think it’s like three to six months, every three to six months we check in and we go from there we see what else I’d like to do if I want to keep going if they have any more job opportunities for me, but it’s a for pretty much for the foreseeable future, because I really like doing and it’s I just got into teaching this past like month. And so I like it. I’m enjoying it.

Jamie:  4:05 

Oh, really? Oh, mate. So you just started teaching that’s awesome.

Enrique:  4:10 

Real professional teaching like actually getting paid for it. I’ve done tutoring in the past, like, you know, here and there like, oh, how do I play this song or doing it but this is the actual first my real first like teaching job and I’m enjoying it.

Jamie:  4:24 

That’s great. So do you only do you teach guitar? Do you teach other instruments as well?

Enrique:  4:30 

Now with the students that I have, I’m only doing guitar, but I do know bass. I was introduced to bass in high school. Electric I started on electric bass. My mentor gave me his electric bass. And so that was like a really cool gift that I got and that kind of set me off to do it in college. And then in college, they have me learned double bass. And so that’s my main instrument right now. And I can teach that. You know, there’s not there’s not too many who are interested in double bass especially I’m hoping to see if I can introduce the electric basis of my guitar students. Maybe we’ll see if that happens, because it’s such a cool instrument, and everybody always needs a basis somehow there’s always work for a bass player. And yeah, that’s, I can do a little bit of drums too. I can teach like basic drums, like the first basic beats. I took four years of, not four, I took four parts of a piano class that are mandatory for my college music program. So I can do basic piano stuff, too. So drums, bass piano guitar, and I’m hoping to get into singing but I can’t teach singing.

Jamie:  5:38 

Oh, wow. Yeah, you sound like you have a lot of interest or a lot of talent. That’s really nice. Thank you. So where did where did you go to college?

Enrique:  5:49 

I went to LA CC. I was lucky enough to get into the Herb Alpert scholarship program. And that’s a really, it’s a really, I don’t know how well known it is. But it’s one of the best music programs in the city of LA right now. And because Herb Alpert is such a what do you call it? Such a P It’s like somebody gives money. He’s a

Jamie,  6:18 


Enrique:  6:19 

Yeah, exactly. He’s a he’s such a great philanthropist. So he gave, he gave a good amount of funding to DC. Because I think he went there. He tied. He’s tied to it somehow. And they partnered with UCLA and Cal Arts. And so they have, they created basically this music conservatory like program in a community college. And it’s one of the it’s like, it’s almost, it’s just as intense as a conservatory. Like, experience. And with the training and the the lessons that come along with it. And so there’s so it was, it was free, it was free to the students, it was a they paid for you got the you got the scholarship. So that’s where the, that’s where, that’s where I studied. And I that’s where I got a lot of my experience, in terms of, you know, performing music. That was my, my focus was bass performance. So it was a really cool little two year thing that I did, and I had a lot of, I had a base, a base mentor, we did lessons every week and went to a lot of classes. And they they had us do some GE and then I’m finishing up my, my associates. Now that’s what that’s what most of the credits was going towards my associates for transfer, until I show them in a transfer because of all the craziness is happening right now. But um, I would definitely like to just finish up my associates for transfer and then goes go to another college. Hopefully.

Jamie:  7:47 

That sounds good. Good luck to you. That’s good luck. So let’s get back to your your teaching. So when you teach your students are you doing it’s a is it an individual? Is it a group? It’s an individual lesson,

Enrique:  8:06 

one, about 30 minutes a student? I thought it was going to have three students, but they pulled it back to two students. And there is some scheduling going on. But yeah, just two students, one on one, just guitar stuff. And they’re actually, uh, they’re, they’re, you know, the pace is nice because we go at their own pace. And they’re learning. They’re learning a lot, and they’re learning a lot. It’s surprising how much because I went into it with different expectations. I thought we’re gonna go really slow, but they’re going, they’re going along at a faster pace than I than I thought and it’s super heartening. It’s very, it’s very exciting, because they already learned how to like one of them already learn how to like tune their guitar. Another one asked me to teach him a Doobie Brothers song. Oh, wow,

Enrique:  8:51 

the Doobie Brothers? That’s really cool. Kind of a question. And so yeah, I got really excited.

Jamie:  9:00 

Nice. Now, you mentioned earlier that you have a job coach that helps you.

Enrique:  9:05 

Yeah, my job coach. We check in. She’s available. She’s not there during the lessons. But we I check in with her and I tell her how they win. And she gives me advice whenever I need advice like oh, what if they asked me this question and you know, how should I go about creating like a lesson plans and all that and we I do that too, with my teacher training program that I’m in. That’s the actual details that I go over with a teacher trainer and that’s like, I have one on one. sessions with her but Lynn does a lot of my job. Coach Lin does a lot of the more hands on day to day like check in stuff and how when, maybe next time work on this and so that’s she’s very supportive.

Jamie:  9:53 

That’s great. And you said she’s a musician also.

Enrique:  9:56 

Yeah, yeah. Lynn plays blend plays drums he has a drummer Background, choose a teaching background so lined up perfectly because music and teaching, that’s exactly what I’m doing. And so we were very well together and very, very supportive. I’m really liking the, the placement.

Jamie:  10:15 

That’s great. That’s great. So what do you have any advice for? For other people out there who might be struggling at work? Even though you seem to have really good support? Do you have any advice for someone who might be struggling?

Enrique:  10:32 

The support is the main part, you know, asking for help, where you can ask, getting getting help where you can, for me, and organization is really, really one of the one of the one of the things I’m working on. And so having the job coaches really helps with, you know, the origin, getting myself organized. But at the advice Yeah, I’d say ask for help when you need it. And from really the most surprising places to like, sometimes I’ll ask my parents about something I would I wouldn’t think they would know about, and they’ll give me a really good answer. So you know, help help can come from a lot of different places. That’s what I would. That’s the advice I would give for somebody struggling just any workplace asking for help when you need it. Knowing when you need help. That’s, that’s really important.

Jamie:  11:22 

Absolutely, absolutely. So is there anybody else that it sounds like you have good support, you have your job coach, you have your parents, you have your point person for your teaching program? Is there anybody else that you might go to? for support?

Enrique  11:40 

Yeah, so with jazz hands, I’m doing the teacher training thing they have a lot of they have a job coach, too. But it’s like a they’re not like on call like Lynne is we meet once a week. But yeah, that’s that’s a lot of the a lot of a lot of the training that I’m getting is through Jad hamster autism. And I’m paying for that separately with Mike like, my, like, self determination, budget stuff. So they are, you know, they’re also a big, a big source of that’s a lot of the help that I’m getting is from them a lot of the experience with teacher training, and they have a counselor that I talked to every once in a while. It’s like, you know, but the teacher trainer, Virginia, who works with them, she’s been instrumental in getting me into teaching and getting me you know, started with, you know, here’s how to create a lesson plan here the standards. And she’s also she’s a singer too, so it works out. She’s like, I think she was classical voice. But she is very helpful when it comes to questions about teaching how to teach, how to get students engaged, you know, and especially music because she has a music background. So yeah, Virginia, my teacher trainer.

Jamie:  12:48 

Okay, good. Now, so do you see this as being something that you would want to do full time teaching music if you had the opportunity?

Enrique:  12:58 

Yeah. I think so. Um, because teaching the, you know, the, what’s required of a teacher is most of the time going to be a full time thing. I think if, from, you know, if you’re going to be teaching, and if you want to do it, well, you know, a lot of time goes into it. Um, I, right now, I’m technically doing part time, but I would like to do full time, just so I can, you know, really sink my teeth into it and get a get a couple students and, you know, get variation of what they’re of what the students are, like, maybe a couple of students on base knew a couple of students on guitar, that would be a cool thing. But I’m also before, before the pandemic, I was really hoping to do a lot more for fun. But event, I learned that that it goes kind of hand in hand, you can do both, you can kind of a specialist position, you should probably do and be doing a lot of a lot of everything recording, performing. So yeah, I think full time. It’s really either or, I would enjoy full time teaching. But you know, it’s I kind of like to go with the flow when it comes to, you know, opportunities and career opportunities that kind of like to see what comes and then nothing’s coming. Don’t look for something. Yeah, go with the flow

Jamie:  14:19 

thing. That’s a really good attitude to have going with the flow for sure. So what other kinds of things do you do with your free time besides music?

Enrique:  14:34 

Besides practicing, I like to read you like to read. I’m, I’m I must confess I do get to procrastinating on the internet here and there. I’ll watch like a YouTube video here. And they’re funny, you know, I do. I like comedy. I like watching. I like watching movies, too. So those are those are some of the things like you know, maybe watch a comedy special here and there. watch a funny movie here and there. movies in general to been getting into the older. What do they call a kid? I could have salad movies. The old, the old Japanese, like samurai Oh, oh, okay. Oh. And then I learned that they’re how they influence the Westerns like the Clint Eastwood movies. And so those are cool, too. I like Star Wars. That’s my one of my favorite. One of my favorite fan. Yeah. Um, yeah, movies, reading. Uh, it’s kind of hard. Because when you’re, when you’re a musician, you kind of have to be practicing a lot. So much you can do other than practice. Or, and if you do, if you do, it kind of feels like it kind of feels like you’re putting it off. Kind of makes you. Um, so yeah, I do try to do a lot of practicing. And, you know, recording for my friends to like, especially now, people will ask me, Can you record apart? Um, can you put? Can you put bass on this thing? And I have doing some of that too.

Jamie:  16:06 

Oh, nice. What kind of Oh, wow, cool. You sound like a busy guy. So what kind of what kind of things do you read?

Enrique:  16:17 

Um, near the beginning of lockdown. I got into like philosophy books, you know, like, there was ism and stuff like that. I like to just kind of read Wikipedia pages, sometimes fun stuff, you know how you go. And I do I like history a lot. So any, any, any reading materials related to history? You know? Any, any history really? Interesting.

Jamie:  16:48 

Okay, cool. So what other things do you want to learn?

Enrique:  16:53 

Just like in general?

Jamie:  16:55 

Yeah. Is there anything else that you really think? Oh, yeah, that’s the next thing I want to learn.

Enrique:  17:01 

Even more instruments like, like, you know, more drums more piano, actually, yeah, piano is one of the main things that I’d like to get better at, um, maybe one of the other stringed instruments like violin or cello, because those always sound really cool. I’m probably another another some sort of trade or craft or like, practical, you know, something? Like survival skills or like, like a one. mechanic stuff like working on cars and stuff like that. That’d be that’d be you know, practical stuff.

Jamie:  17:36 

Yeah, that’s awesome. Good. Do you live by yourself? Or do you live with other people?

Enrique:  17:47 

I live with my family with my parents and my sister. Um, we we move around a lot. And we recently moved to East LA. So I have not recently like the past few years we’ve been living here. And so Oh, yeah. Yeah, that’s I, I, I have a an upstairs. They actually live in a house. They converted the attic into a bedroom. So I kind of live in an attic, but it’s like a carpet and it’s like, converted into a bedroom. They paint the walls. It’s pretty cool. It’s a cool room. But it’s like, when it gets cold. It gets really cold. Always have to have a heater right next.

Jamie:  18:24 

Oh, wow. So what what about your home life or your work life makes you proudest? What are you the most proud of?

Enrique:  18:38 

Proudest? Oh, that’s a good one. Probably the, the, um, I would say how far I’ve come. When I was like, a couple years ago, I’d never I probably would never see myself doing any teaching. It’s become it’s, it’s like a recent thing that I’ve recently become open to. I think that’s probably something I can be proud of myself for, like getting into it in my own life. You know, just, I would say, the my relationship with my parents and sister. I think that’s something to be proud of. It’s pretty good. It’s a we’re on my I’m pretty great terms. You know.

Jamie:  19:19 

That’s great. That is great. So who are your biggest role models? And why?

Enrique:  19:29 

My mom was the first one. You know, parents, that’s if you know, if you’re close with them, that’s always going to be one of them. Um, but probably some, you know, musicians like I really want to emulate Brene Brown in my playing. Ray Brown is a double bass player. He’s, uh, he played with a lot of different groups when jazz was a big thing. Um, and he just his sound is incredible. And I that’s probably one of my in terms of Have enough music. And, um, my, my high school music mentor, I think was Dan Osterman he was he was also he’s also a pretty big role model he got me into bass. And then later in college, my bass, less my bass lesson my bass teacher, my bass mentor, Nate light. He’s also he’s super cool. He’s a gigging musician. He’s a like virtual so level bass player. Um, those are just some of my role models.

Jamie:  20:32 

Wow. So, what advice do you have for people who want to follow their dreams

Enrique:  20:46 

um go with the flow is good. Because some people have a really a really a like, for the for the lockdown, I had this, this, this image in my head of myself as a gigging musician. And that was my dream. But then, if you’re able to, if you’re able to shift them reasonably, I think that’ll make you a lot more of a hat and put you in a happier place. Rather than letting yourself down. You know, if your dreams can be if your dreams can be malleable, that’s always a good thing. You know, there’s, I’m not sure where I stand on all the plan B stuff like, Oh, if you want to have a dream, you always have to have a plan B or no, never have a plan B, you should just pursue it to the fullest. Whatever you want to do, I’m not sure where I stand on that. I’m kind of leaning toward, you know, don’t have a plan B and just, you know, go go with all your put all your effort into a dream. That sounds right. That sounds nice to me. But you know, things things constantly change. Life is life is a stranger than fiction. Life is the most on the most on what do you call it? Um, connectable. Whatever you think is gonna happen, it will probably be the opposite or the most unexpected thing like you’ll never think of it it’ll happen. So that’s always good to keep in mind when you have dreams. Life is constantly shifting and evolving. And sometimes it’ll throw you a you know, a left fielder. Right off guard. Yeah, having having a having a reasonable dreams, I guess. I don’t know.

Jamie:  22:32 

You’re a very wise man and reggae that you’re very wise. Alright, so we’re just about finished? had just one more question. And we’ve kind of already gotten over this a little bit. But what do you what are you really good at?

Enrique:  22:49 

Oh, yeah. What am I I’m a little bass. I would like to like to think so. Bass. music in general, maybe not so much. There’s a lot more I have to learn. Same can be said about baseball. I think I’m really good at music because before I started playing music, I was very socially introverted. I was very, I was I was a huge nerd. You know, I was just like, I would just never fit in. And when I started playing music, I became a lot more social. And I think that’s just one of the I think that’s something that’s you can say, good at without bragging. Like, I’m pretty good at conversating and talking and, you know, just being social, especially now that I’ve met people who, you know, also do music, and they have like, my, like, my sort of demeanor. And you know, agreeable people. There’s a lot of agreeable people in music. And, and it’s very rare to find that they have this, like rock stars and people like that they have people who aren’t musicians, they have this, this thing about musicians where some of them can be like uptight, or, you know, kind of crazy, but a lot of musicians are pretty agreeable. And I think that’s, that’s cool. I think that’s what’s really helped me is finding a community where I can, you know, get really social and I figured out, I figured out that I’m an extrovert. So yeah, I think being social and conversing and, you know, talking with people, I think I’m really good at that.

Jamie:  24:11 

I would have to agree. Yes, I would have to agree. Yeah, and it kind of it makes sense with, with with music. When you play music, it is a conversation among people. And so you have to learn how to work together in order to make beautiful music and well.

Enrique:  24:29 

Yeah, it’s very collaborative. Yeah, very much.

Jamie:  24:33 

So. Well, hopefully, I’ll get to hear you play sometime. Because now I’m really interested.

Enrique:  24:40 

Yeah, for sure. We’ll see what we’ll see.

Jamie:  24:43 

I’ll have to I’ll have to check out some of your jazz hands classes. Maybe go peek in that Westmoreland when when you’re working over there.

Enrique:  24:52 

Yeah, that that’d be cool. Instagram, I can refer you to um, you know, I’m I’m looking for calm Looking for more gigs? You can come to one of my gigs if you want. Oh, I would love that.

Jamie:  25:04 

I would love that. Well, Ricky, thank you so much for talking with me today. I really appreciate it. It’s been really interesting. Thanks again for your time. I really appreciate it.

Enrique:  25:16 

Any time it was fun


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