Maier: A Gift of Music
Witnessing a miracle in this day and age is a rare occasion. Some may
go searching for them, but most of the time they happen unexpectedly.
Brittany Maier, now 15, is blind, autistic and has a rare and remarkable
gift for music. I first came to know of Brittany via the website for Broadway
and concert singing star Linda Eder. Not long ago I finally had the privilege
of meeting Brittany at one of her stunning musical performances.
The story of Eder’s friendship with the Maier family began with
a drive they made from their home in Irmo, South Carolina, to one of her
North Carolina shows. After the performance, the Maier family had an opportunity
to meet the young girl’s icon and an instant friendship was formed.
An article written about the visit told of Brittany’s love for Eder’s
voice and music, and how the two sat down at the piano, with Eder singing
as Brittany played. The story intrigued many Eder fans, and posts about
Brittany started appearing on Eder’s website. Brittany’s mother
Tammy responded graciously to everyone. By word of mouth along what we
call Ederdom, devoted fans of Eder learned that Brittany had a website
of her own. Intrigued, I decided to take a look one day to learn more
about this talented young lady.
Brittany came into this world on April 9, 1989. She was born four months
premature (only 25 weeks into the pregnancy) and weighed just 1.5 pounds
at delivery. During her pregnancy Tammy had experienced life-threatening
complications from a rare syndrome called HELLP (Hemolysis, Elevated Liver
Enzymes, Low Platelets). Brittany’s life began with her first six
months spent in the hospital.
One of the complications of her prematurity was blindness. Doctors told
her parents there was a possibility for sight with surgery, but unfortunately
it was unsuccessful, leaving no future possibilities to restore her vision.
Upon reaching school age, she was placed in the Columbia, South Carolina,
public school system. “This did not work, as Columbia PS did not
know what to do with her,” her mother recalls. Brittany was then
enrolled in the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind, where the
Maiers discovered that Brittany was having difficulty mentally processing
her environment. She was returned to the public schools, where extensive
testing was performed. Six-year-old Brittany was discovered to be autistic.
Brittany’s interest in music had become apparent around her first
birthday. Music seemed to comfort her—if Tammy put on Dan Fogelberg’s
Greatest Hits, Brittany would become content. By age two, Brittany liked
a variety of children’s music tapes. By age six she was playing
the music from the tapes on a toy piano.
When Brittany’s parents picked her up from school one afternoon,
her teachers wanted to make sure they got to experience what the school
already had. When Tammy and Brittany’s father Chuck were led to
Brittany, she was playing Schubert’s “Ave Maria” note
for note on her little toy piano.
continued in ABILITY Magazine subscribe
by Bill Budris
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