Thursday, December 9, 2010

Tenor Andrea Bocelli's music reaches into the soul of autistic boy


BOSTON -- An opera superstar, tenor Andrea Bocelli, took center stage at the TD Garden Dec. 5 in a performance many in the audience will likely never forget.

But it's what happened backstage with a very special fan of the star that stole the show.

The boy, a 10-year-old with autism, has always felt a special connection with Bocelli and for the Amherst New Hampshire native, and his dreams came true when he got to see the star in person.

George Maroun III, a fourth-grader, has listened to Bocelli every day of his life. He is diagnosed as autistic, non-verbal, and he has never said a single word in his life, not even "mom" or "dad," but Bocelli has helped him communicate and thrive.

Sunday night, he suited up in a tuxedo and was allowed to stay up late on a school night to attend the Bocelli concert in Boston.

His mother said Bocelli's music has been magic in the child's life.

"One time when he was in the middle of a fit, infancy stage, and I was turning on the music and it was like a light switch. He just ... it calmed him down," said George's mother Kristin Maroun.

The entire family was given tickets to the Bocelli concert thanks to George's special education aide Jeff Small, who wrote a letter to Bocelli's managers, telling them the tickets were too expensive for the family to attend, but it would be an invaluable experience if George could go. Bocelli's organization immediately made it possible.

"I know (George's parents are) grateful. They've gone through a lot with him," said Small.

"I think I'm going to have a tough time keeping him from climbing up on stage," Kristin said before the performance.

Bocelli is blind and the Marouns see him as an inspiration -- a shining example of the possibilities for their son.

They were treated to front-row center seats.

"He swayed, he smiled. He was just ecstatic," his mother said.

"Maybe, hopefully, (he'll understand) the language. We're hoping. Maybe he'll start singing opera, who knows?" said George's father.

"Maybe he only speaks Italian!" Kristin said.

The Marouns have five children, and the younger ones also sing to Bocelli in the car, even though they have no idea what the star is saying.