Written by Meryl Zhang, FCSN Voices Youth Reporter
Earlier last month, Dream Achiever had its first in-person performance of the year: a celebration of Lunar New Year. The three-member special needs band had previously performed live all over the world, attracting large crowds from Beijing to Washington D.C. However, the pandemic put their live performances on hold for over a year, and the band had only recently resumed their in-person concerts in June 2021. Band manager and parent Anna Wang shared the experiences of the band members as they navigated online performances and the inability to interact with their audience, as well as the joy of returning to in-person performances.
“Before the pandemic, [Dream Achiever was] performing about 70 performances each year in any given year… In 2020, they had about 22 to 25 virtual concerts.”
The stark difference in the number of concerts is obvious, not to mention the psychological impact of suddenly lacking a tangible audience. According to Ms. Wang, the band members were initially disappointed at the disappearance of the once-large crowds that attended all of their shows, but after seeing the thousands of views on their broadcasts, they realized that their audience was still right there beside them.
“[Dream Achiever] realized they just could not see their fans, but they were still out there. After they got their minds set on imagining their audience, then they were fine.”
Of course, a virtual audience still cannot compare to a live audience, regardless of view count. The Dream Achiever band members were overjoyed to see and greet their fans again. In particular, this year’s first in-person performance featured over 500 spectators, one of the largest crowds that the band had seen since their return to live performances.
To adjust back to their previous schedule of live performances, Dream Achiever did not need to change their practice routine. The team usually practices once a week; due to their outstanding memory, they do not need to spend as much time specifically preparing for a concert.
“It seems like once they play the song, it’s been downloaded in their brains somewhere – they can perform about 400 songs anytime. For example, for Christmas shows, they would not even have a rehearsal [for that show] until after Thanksgiving. They wouldn’t rehearse any of the Christmas songs until [then].”
Memorization is only one aspect of the band members’ unique skills compared to neurotypical people. Performing allows them to showcase all of these skills while inspiring their community and boosting their own self-esteem.
“[Performing] is an affirmation – an affirmation that you are a worthwhile person, that you’re worth something. A lot of kids with special needs [are told] they’re worthless… If they’re in the wrong crowd, they get bullied, they get called names… But if [they’re] performing well in front of a crowd, they are now getting the recognition they deserve.”
Performing also provides much-needed opportunities to reduce prejudice against special needs individuals and potentially increase their likelihood of employment. We hope that the Dream Achievers will be able to perform even more often in the future and inspire even larger audiences.
Live performance highlights:
Dream Achievers Band / Musicians with Autism 2022 Lunar New Year of the Tiger Concert