Presentation by Michael Valcour

     This is the story of how I an working to become a singer. Music is my life. I hear music better than words. When I was a little kid, I loved Sesame Street. I learned the alphabet and how to count by watching it.
     I didn't talk much but I loved musical instruments. I played the violin, drums, song flute, trumpet, keyboard and piano.
     In high school, I sang "Lean On Me" in the chorus. I taught myself to play it on the guitar. My family was surprised! This is me singing at the Easter Seals Dance.
     As a teenager, I did volunteer work in a group home. I received the Volunteer of the Year Award in Marin County, California.
     I went to the College of Marin. I took music classes. I met Donna Dutton in chorus. She helped me develop my voice. I made the honor roll. Here I am practicing with her.
     I sang in operas.   
     I sang at fund raisers.
     I volunteered as a music teacher in Special Education Classrooms.
     I got better and better. I got paid gigs. I sang in San Francisco, city Hall, at the Lighthouse for the Blind 100th Anniversary.
     I moved to Sacramento 3 years ago. I sang at the march on the capital. I sang at the National Self-Advocacy Conference in Anaheim.
     I take voice lessons and classes at Cosumnes River College. I am a member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. This is my last singing award. I am singing in a Messiah concert, and I am singing at a 30th Anniversary Gala.

Autobiography of Michael John Valcour
written with the help of Kathy and Arnold Valcour

When I was a toddler I couldn't connect with people. Their words sounded like babble to me. They talked too fast and I couldn't respond. When I was 18 months, I learned the alphabet and how to count from songs on Sesame Street. It was a good thing that happened because everybody was worried about me. They were proud of my accomplishments but they still took me to many doctors. Some said my sister did all the talking for me. Confusion prevailed! I went to a special day school in Marin County, California. I loved it when we sang and had music.

When it was time to go to Kindergarten they told me I had autism. This made a lot of people sad. When I was six, my behavior started to slip. I was frustrated and couldn't say what I wanted, even though I could picture it in my mind. If I wanted Cheerios, I couldn't say what it was or where it was. I started to bite and scratch people and throw tantrums. A dark cloud passed over our house.

Then my parents discovered a program called the Option Process. People were with me 12 hours a day for two years. I loved that program and wanted to do it with other autistic children. Barry and Suzi Kaufman invented it. I started to improve. My speech and behavior got better. Music was my main language. If people sing words to me it works well. I still need a facilitater to help me because of delayed language processing.

I was happy when there was music. My Dad danced and sang with me. My sister, Pagette, and I lisstened to records and later, tapes and CD's. My Mom bought me musical instruments. I tried drums, violins, trumpet, guitar and keyboard. When I was a teenager, I decided to be an intertainer. I sang in the chorus, and learned "Lean On Me." I played it by ear on my guitar. My parents thought that was very important. I wrote some songs on my own for the guitar.

Later I went to the College of Marin. My ability in music overshadowed my disabilities. I met Donna Dutton there. She worked with disabled students in the chorus. She thought I had a special gift for singing and became my mentor and voice coach, which helped me to participate in voice class with my teacher, Linda Noble. From then on, I became a baritone vocalist. I learned to sing classical music in foreign languages. I sing all types of music: opera, popular, classical, religious, and children's songs. It is my life! I have sung in operas, at fundraisers, weddings, conventions, family reunions, retirement homes, and school assemblies. I became much appreciated as a volunteer teacher in Special Education classes.

Because I did other volunteer work, I received a certificate of Recognition from the California State Legislative Assembly for Volunteer of the Year in Marin County, California. the honor was due to my work with children with autism in group homes. People were amazed that someone with autism could have such empathy. I want to continue to inspire people with what I can do. Words come hard for me but music is my language. It keeps me in the real world. A social worker told my parents that the backrooms of institutions are filled with autistic people and it's amazing what I have accomplished.

Now I live in Sacramento where I sang at the State Capitol, Special Olympics events, and concerts at Cosumnes River College. I am a member of The Media Access Office North. It is affiliated with the Governor's Committee for the Employment of Disabled Persons.


           Age 4

  Michael as Danny Zuko
National Self Advocacy Conference, Anaheim
Presenter, People First Convention, Sacramento, CA
Steps of City Hall, Sacramento