Autistic But Amazingly Talented
by Kathleen Valcour
Michael Valcour, a 39 year old baritone, is trained to sing a varied repertoire of classical, popular, religious, rock and children's music. Despite being diagnosed at a young age as having autism, Michael has managed to astound a large number of people with his talents. Music is Michael's pathway to the normal world. He has perfect pitch and as a vocalist, far exceeds typical singers. As a child he responded best when we sang sentences to him, similar to a Gregorian chant. Today he is totally immersed in music and falls asleep to the classic rock TV station. Recently he revealed another ability: that of acting. While performing in "The Wizard of Oz,." we were amazed to see him gesture, memorize dialogue, and sing and dance with ease. Google "Michael Valcour" for the news articles (Roseville & Granite Bay Press Tribune, 3/06/10, "For those with autism, there's no place like stage... actor's strengths shine in 'Wizard of Oz' production." When it comes to Michael, who knows what is there. Two defining articles which must be obtained separately are: (1) In the Marin Independent Journal, Monday, April 24, 1989, when Michael received a Certificate of Revognition from the California State Legislative Assembly for the Volunteer of the Year in Marin County. He was sixteen and especially recognized for the compassion and empathy he showed towards autistic children in a group home. Later he continued as a volunteer music teacher in Special Education Classes throughout Marin County. While attending the College of Marin, he was able to focus on music. While there he also joined the Alpha Gamma Sigma Honor Society due to his high marks in music classes. Amazingly, he achieved this, even though he was unable to receive a high school diploma. Recently I spoke with his voice coach, who said that Michael is still far and above many of the vocalists to pass through C.O.M.

After living 27 years in Marin, we moved to Sacramento to be closer to family. My mother was going through the last stages of her life due to breast cancer. She passed at the age of 90. Our daughter Pagette lived in Sacramento and wanted us close for her family needs. Pagette has been an amazing positive influence on Michael throughout his life. This change must have been difficult for Michael. Nevertheless, he joined the Music Department at Cosumnes River College. Again he excelled and was inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa Society International order. He became a member of The Media Access Office North, which is affiliated with The Governor's Committee for the Employment of Diabled Persons. Also he became a member of Actors for Autism. After singing for several open mic opportunities at The Joey Travolta Family theatre, he was chosen to be the closer at their fundraiser in Hollywood. Michael sang three inspirational songs. This organization appears to be inactive now. At the time of these performances, we met Keri Bowers, who was blown away by Michael's talent. Great promises were made but little came of it.

During this time, a tragedy struck in the form of Katrina. My husband's family, long standing members of the Creole community, were hit hard in New Orleans. the devastation scattered them all over the country. The first few weeks were desperate as we tried to locate someone, anyone! The lines of communication were down. Finally, a niece remembered our web site. My husband, Arnold, arranged for his sister, Lorraine to come live with us. She was partially paralyzed due to a stroke and her daughters needed time to set up living quarters. Of course, this was a painful occurrence that affected Michael and the entire family. Michael remained singing at fundraisers and unique events.

My feeling about Michael, as we continue our journey, is that of "pride and concern" as stated by Beth Ashley of the Marin Independent Journal. This is what I felt when he responded to Sesame Street songs, allowing him to recite the alphabet and count to 20 at the age of 18 months, but had no other vocabulary. Despite his tremendous growth, these feelings still apply to this day. There is a special joy that I treasure. Wherever, whatever the event Michael has sung, I have been approached by individuals who are truly soulfully touched by Michael's performance. What he is like today was well put by reporter Megan Wood, of the Rosefille & Granite Bys KPress Tribune: "There's something about being on stage that transforms Michael Valcour.

"Under the bright lights of the Magic Circle Theatre, Valcour speaks with purpose, dances with ease and sings with complete confidence.

"Offstage, he becomes quiet, standoffish, and has difficulty with the rhythm and comprehension of everyday conversation.

"Onstage, you would never guess that the 37-year-old with a powerful singing voice has autism, a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects one in every 150 American children.

"We feel somehow, somewhere, that Michael should be heard big time, because in reality he should be the "Super Star" he aspires to be."

Introduction of Michael Valcour by Kathy Valcour
Michael Valcour is a 31-year old baritone who was disgnosed with autism as a young child. If left to his own devices, he  might easily have found himself in an institution, immersed in his own, mysterious world of autism. Instead, with the help of others, Michael has developed the gift of music. Through his own wonderful talents and the efforts of a magnificent group of people, including the day program at Casa Allegra Community Services, and Donna Dutton, Michael has become a  highly respected vocalist and solo performer.

Michael has appeared in the Winter and Summer Operas at the College of Marin, in addition to numerous galas and fund raisers. Michael has also received many honors for his volunteer work as a music teacher, including being recognized as the "1989 Volunteer of the Year" by the California Legislature and being awarded for his "Outstanding Community Services" by the Volunteer Center of Marin.

How does Michael impact the children he works with?
Kathy Valcour
Michael has a special quality of respecting each and every child he works with, regardless of their disability. In return they love to have him in their classroom. They respond with joy and enthusiasm when he sings. I am told that they look forward to his arrival. They do as he says without any trouble. I have seen him work in a classroom full of 3 classes, and have everybody wait patiently while a little girl was helped out of a wheelchair onto the floor in order to sing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" with a partner. They held hands and did a rowing motion together. He wasn't going to start until that little girl was absolutely ready to go.

How effective is Michael in closing the gap between handicapped and non-handicapped community?
Kathy Valcour
Michael conducts himself in a professional manner when in the classroom. He insists on singing songs appropriate to the age group he is working with. He is prompt and polite. He brings with him a sense of joy and expectation. Students and staff alike participate in his choices. He likes to chose some songs with group participation and others where individual students have a chance to perform He is well aware of each child's ability and never requests them to do more than what is possible. The quality of his playing and singing also evokes respect from the adults involved. He is always appropriately groomed.