Spotlight: Jazz Hands for Autism
For parents of children on the autism spectrum, one of their deepest hopes is for the children to find success
Jazz Hands For Autism (JHFA) is in the business of facilitating that success.
Jazz Hands For Autism is a 501(c)(3) talent advocacy group that creates avenues from expression to employment for musicians on the autism spectrum. The founders of JHFA believe that success is the ability to do what you love and be paid for it. They believe that success is the ability to unify people, inspire people, move people, and change people for the better, all by doing what you love.
JHFA finds its roots in 2014 when its Founder and Executive Director, Ifunanya Nweke, was blessed with the opportunity to witness what she calls the beginning of the road to success for Ruben J, a young musician on the autism spectrum.
It was a typical weekday as the seventh grade students at a local middle school moved from class to class. However, their music class had a sub, which to the students of course meant… DO WHATEVER YOU WANT! So, Ruben did just that: he spontaneously sat down at the piano and began singing a song. And then something happened: his other classmates flocked to the remaining instruments in the room to accompany him. This blew Ifunanya away.
What she saw was Ruben—who was usually the guy in the corner of the classroom with his behavior therapist—become a leader simply by being himself and doing what he loves. She saw his capacity to succeed.
At that moment, destiny met opportunity: Ifunanya knew that there must be more musicians on the autism spectrum like Ruben, with their potential to be leaders lying dormant. So, just like that, Jazz Hands For Autism was born.
At its most recent concert on May 27th, 2017, JHFA celebrated 3 years of operation with 12 musicians (all playing different genres) who were supported by an audience of about 100 people from all different walks of life. At this concert, members of the audience coined a new phrase: #JazzHandsJoy. This phrase expresses both the enthusiasm of the performers and the joy they bring their audience.
Jazz Hands For Autism has received recognition from California Assemblyman Mike Gatto of the 43rd District, and has been highlighted on 102.7 KIIS FM, on the USC website and on the Pierson to Person podcast series.
If you would like to be a part of JHFA, there are many opportunities to contribute as a donor, volunteer, board member, or mentor, or by simply attending a concert.