Holland Bloorview Rocks welcomes new percussionist

When 12-year-old Maria took the stage at Holland Bloorview Rocks, her mom, Elena, held her breath for a moment.  

Elena never imagined she would be watching her daughter perform in a rock concert.

Maria was one of the many performers who took part in Holland Bloorview Rocks – an annual event that showcases the musical talent of kids of Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital's music therapy programs.

Now in its fourth year, Maria joined 14 other Holland Bloorview clients, as well as music therapists and other musicians. Two bands graced the stage and performed music from popular artists like Bob Marley, Justin Timberlake and Ed Sheeran to grand applause.

Maria uses a manual push chair to get around, has limited abilities to produce clear speech and use her hands for self-care and writing.

“She’s very smart, has high cognitive abilities, and has a very strong character…she always says, ‘I never give up, I keep trying,’” said Elena.

Maria uses a computer that’s equipped with unique and sophisticated communication software that was developed by Communication and Writing Aids Services (CWAS) team at Holland Bloorview. She controls her computer through the “Hummer” – a device she wears on her neck that converts vocal cord vibrations into a digital signal.

Earlier this year, Maria’s school music teacher, Elena, and CWAS collaborated to give Maria’s computer the ability to make a variety of digital percussion sounds.

So when Maria and Elena noticed a flyer promoting Holland Bloorview Rocks this summer, Maria lit up. “She loved the idea of playing with a band,” said Elena. “She looked at me and asked, “Can I participate?” And we signed up right away.”

Was she nervous performing on stage?

Not at all, said Elena. She’s had rehearsed with her bandmates and loved the experience of being part of a group, said Elena. “This experience brought a lot of joy and happiness,” she added.

Though the curtain has fallen for Holland Bloorview Rocks for this year, music will continue to be a big part of Maria’s life.

Driving to appointments and school is already more fun, with Maria playing along with the music in the car. “She enjoys different types of music, but loves joyful and cheerful music. It reflects her personality,” said Elena.

She is also going to be a part of her school’s orchestra.  

“I feel so happy about all of this,” said Elena. “This is a dream come true…another way for my child to express herself.”