Jimmy McGuirt was born in Tampa, Florida to parents Patti and Jimmy McGuirt. His behavior as a child struck his parents as “different.” Yet, this was at a time where there was little to no information on autism, the developmental disorder he would later be diagnosed with.
Jimmy could not even speak until age 4. Instead, he took to the family piano and then to using as his voice. Slowly his speech developed, and with therapy, it improved. Jimmy had not only found his voice, but an incredible one at that. He progressed as a singer in his church choir, and is a part of the small community of people that have absolute pitch.
Jimmy attended Morning Star School in Tampa from the 4th to the 9th grade, and was later mainstreamed into Gaither High School. Jimmy’s musical gift was so great that his choral director would use Jimmy’s voice as the “pitch pipe” when the choir would sing without musical accompaniment.
As Jimmy goes through life, his autism continues a constant obstacle. He has married and has a son (who also has autism). Still, he’s had a difficult time keeping a job. His mother, Patti McGuirt, believes that his musical talents are the only way Jimmy will be able to make a living, because his differences have put him at odds with a traditional career path.
The International Center for Autism Research and Education (ICare4Autism) requested that Jimmy perform at the ICare4Autism 2010: Cocktail Gala in Tampa, Florida. The crowd was marveled by the meticulous performance. Jimmy sang the song, “You Raise Me Up,” by Josh Groban. The most astonishing part, for the crowd, was to hear how Jimmy song exactly like the original singer of the song.
“There must be something about his specific type of autism that gives him the ability to match-up so perfectly with Groban’s voice,” said one gala guest.
ICare4Autism recently spoke with Jimmy and Patti McGuirt (mother), to learn a little bit more about the man behind the music.
Q: What first inspired you get involved with music?
Jimmy: Music has been a part of my life since I was a small boy – even before that. My father had a band, and they would practice in the garage. I always wanted to be a professional singer since I was young. Although at the time I didn’t know that I could sing. I knew I had a gift, but I didn’t know how to use it at that early age.
Q: Was it something that came naturally once you realized you could sing?
Jimmy: Yeah. I sang in a church choir when I was young, and was asked to perform in my church’s state choir in Orlando with my sister. It was around this time that I knew I wanted to pursue my gift of music, and make my voice the best it can be.
Q: How long have you been performing? Did it take a while to build up the confidence?
Jimmy: I started performing with my father’s band in the late 90’s. In high school, I was embarrassed to perform, even though I knew I had absolute pitch, and I knew I could use my voice to make other people happy. There was a band called “Showcase”, but I didn’t want to be a part of it because they would gossip if you were good or bad. I never wanted my singing to go to my head. All those years of singing karaoke at the bars built up my confidence. Although I don’t drink [laughs].
Patti: When a car would honk it’s horn, it would hurt Jimmy’s head because it was off pitch.
Jimmy: Yeah. When they do hymns at church, or if I’m watching American Idol, and they’re off, it can be give me migraine headaches.
Q: Who are your influences and favorite singers?
Jimmy: Steve Perry [lead vocalist of Journey]. Michael Crawford [of Phantom of the Opera fame]. I also really enjoy movie soundtracks.
Q: Do you have any advice for anyone out there who has autism and wants to be a singer?
Jimmy: Do the Nike thing, you know [laughs]. Just do it. You’re going to be put down, but do it. I’ve been told I’m a bad singer, but I don’t care. Never give up.
Patti: Don’t let your difference stop you from anything.
Jimmy: Exactly. In my life, music is the one thing my autism has never affected. Playing piano or singing. I just know how to do it. Like in college, I would need to go see a learning disability counselor before I did anything. Never with music.
Q: Ever thought about American Idol?
Jimmy: I’ve thought about American Idol. I went and stood in line once, but I found out there was an age limit.
Patti: America’s Got Talent doesn’t have an age limit, so we’ve filled out an application for that.
Q: What’s the best way for people who want you to perform at their events to contact you?
Jimmy: They can either me email personally or email my mother.
Q: Anything else you want to add?
Jimmy: Yes. Before this event [ICare4Autism 2010: Cocktail Gala] transpired, I would wonder where my life was going, with being unemployed since 2006. But I will never give up, and I was thankful to perform that night and show my talents. I hope I can perform more.
[youtube width=”853″ height=”505″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XNuffvPD2GU&feature=player_embedded[/youtube]
ICare4Autism stands behind the talent of Jimmy McGuirt and recommends him as an outstanding performer.