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Ben & Bela (Fleck), December 9, 2012

Music (and Autism) Ramble: Ben & Bela (Fleck)

Ben’s been a Bela Fleck fan forever. We know when Ben’s a fan of someone because he either (a) requests them a lot, and/or (b) doesn’t instantly request (er, demand) something else when it starts to play. When we picked him up Sunday, he seemed happy (or at least, not unhappy) when told, “Ben, we’re going to visit Bela Fleck!”

Bela (whom Karen and I have known for years) and his brilliant wife and musical colleague, Abby (aka Abigail Washburn), were in Cleveland for his performances last week/weekend of his recent Concerto for Banjo and Orchestra, with Giancarlo Guerrero conducting the Cleveland Orchestra no less.

Before Bela Fleck's performance in Severance Hall of his Concerto for Banjo and Orchestra with the Cleveland Orchestra conducted by Giancarlo Guerrero, December 8, 2012 

After Karen and I heard this wonderfully engaging work Saturday night, Bela invited us to bring Ben up to their hotel suite at the Ritz (premier Classical soloists get premier accommodations) to see him and Abby on Sunday.

Ben seemed OK when we got out of the car at the hotel. As we walked into the crowded lobby, Ben’s voice boomed. Bela and Abby came down to meet us, and up we went to their suite.

Luckily Karen brought some scones, because that’s what kept Ben sitting for a few minutes, chewing while we chatted. Ben’s main (only) contribution to the conversation was, “Go to the car.”

As Ben finished his scones, Bela played.

How many people get a solo recital by a favorite musician? But even Bela and his banjo were no match for autism. “Go to the car.”

As we said good byes and the elevator doors closed, Ben did say, “Bye Abby.” He has always had an eye for a lovely lady.

Odd as it may sound, this experience brought to mind farm animals. Ben talks about them frequently and about farmers, tractors, and all things farm-related, but especially pigs, cows, horses, chickens, and goats. He loves them in books and on video. Bring him to a farm, however (and we are members of the Lake Metroparks Farmpark near where Ben lives), and he might glance at one of the real live animals as we walk. Or not. In person (or “in live animal”?) is not the same as in a book. And in reverse of most typical people, the book’s better. Much.

That doesn’t mean Ben didn’t like his visit with Bela and Abby. He might end up talking about it in his own way down the road, or the next time we play some CDs of his. Or not. But either way, Bela and Abby were wonderful. We’ll never quite get over the sight of Ben getting private time with someone whose music he loves. It’s not easy to arrange or make happen. They are exceptional people and valued friends.

December 9, 2012

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