The Power of Music

Don Baragiano

A long time Cincinnati fan contacted me yesterday telling me about her 9 year old autistic son. She calms him down by playing my “Hejira” CD. Isn’t that incredible? It’s gratifying knowing what I do is healing as well as entertaining.

“….Don, my 9 year old son, Bobby, is autistic and has listened to the HEJIRA CD 1,000’s of times in the last few years. He would put it on when he went to bed and set the CD player on repeat. Sadly, it started skipping and became unplayable. We have had several autistic meltdowns as a result. Listening to your music mellowed him out every time. It’s funny how he can listen to one song over and over night after night for as long as he has!

“He has a lot of sensory issues and has always been drawn to certain sounds and, equally, opposed to certain sounds and music. Most young children would sit and watch Sesame Street or Disney movies but Bobby would put on Fantasia and stand in the middle of the room like an orchestra conductor while he watched and listened. And every time we would get in my van he would want to put your CD on and then at bedtime if we forgot it in the van we would have to put our shoes and jacket on and go out and get it.

“The music was very calming for him. When I could tell he was getting close to a meltdown I’d put the CD on. Bobby was recently accepted to receive an autism service dog, which we’re very excited about! We’re planning a fundraiser benefit for him at the end of July 2016.

“Bobby is high functioning and verbal which, oftentimes, makes it difficult for us because he appears to be “typical” in certain circumstances and then when he’s triggered by certain noises or crowds or overwhelming situations he can have a lot of anxiety that could even trigger a meltdown. This can cause a big scene where people don’t realize he’s autistic. One of my favorite things about him is that he has no sense of shame or embarrassment so he will just get up and dance and move to music when he feels the need and doesn’t care what anybody thinks. I love his lack of inhibition even though it has caused me embarrassment at times.

Hejira in performance.

“I’ve seen you performing several times in Cincinnati and bought a CD. Then I brought my son with me to Sitwell’s, in Clifton. He had already been listening to the CD for some time and when you played his favorite songs “LIVE” he thought that was great. I like to expose him to many different things so he can learn to enjoy a variety of different types of music and cultures. He now has a great appreciation of music, all kinds, and I believe it started with your one CD.

“He also dresses up in many different costumes and becomes different characters. Rarely is he ever just Bob. But not typical little boy characters like Superman Batman or Transformers. He is a Scottish man in a kilt playing bagpipes or a German fellow wearing his lederhosen playing a didgeridoo. Never a dull day here!”


I was flattered! It’s nice to know that other people are drawn to the same music/rhythms that I am.

When I finally did meet Bobby, face to face, I remember thinking, … a young boy who likes Middle Eastern music (scratching head) … a little outside the box … since this music is very complex melody & rhythm-wise. There’s odd tempo rhythms…7/8 and 9/8 … And then there’s the non-western ¼ tone scales. Americans mostly hear common 4/4 time, or maybe ¾ (waltz) in either major or minor scales.

After concerts, the medium of exchange is usually, “Hey, you guys sounds great!” That’s the polite thing to do. But, it’s hard for me to process how Bobby has listened to every single, subtle; percussion part, melody, intro, solo, transition and ending of this music. And still finds something in there to keep his long term interest.

This should be an NPR (National Public Radio) feature show.



Musician Don Baragiano is founder, composer & bandleader for the Middle Eastern music project “Hejira”. He combines ancient Middle Eastern scales & rhythms with American rock, jazz and classical music.