Singing helps Birchwood pupil find his voice

Photo Kristin Schultz
Aidan PagePhoto Kristin Schultz Aidan Page


Gazette Reporter

NISKAYUNA — You can’t stop Aidan Page from singing. He was 4 when he started and 5 when he began singing along when Luciano Pavarotti was on the television.

Now at age 10, Page continues to sing anywhere he can — school plays, the JCC talent show and in the selective Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys in Albany.

“It feels like what I was meant to do,” he said.

Finding his voice turned out to be not only an outlet for talent, but a pathway to speech and communication. Page is on the autism spectrum and didn’t begin to speak until well after other children his age.

His mother Diana remembered, though, that Aidan loved to be rocked and bounced. He also love it when she sang.

“I sang Thomas the Train songs to help him be fluent in speech,” she said.

If children’s songs helped Aidan acquire speech, it was great Italian tenors who captured his preschool-aged imagination. Diana has video of a 5-year-old, baby-faced Aidan looking intently at a television, when suddenly, he straightens his posture and draws a deep breath, and in clear, perfect pitch, joins the Italian virtuoso in a multimedia duet.

He also plays violin and drums, and is in the school band, orchestra and chorus.

Aidan is a soprano II in the Men and Boys Choir. He is one of 15 boys in the 146-year-old group that practices twice a week and performs at weekly services at Cathedral of All Saints. During certain times of year, like the holiday season, Aidan and the choir perform multiple concerts.

This year, the choir performed Handel’s iconic Christmas oratorio “Messiah,” as well as a Service of Nine Lessons and Carols with songs sung in English and Latin, the latter being his favorite language to sing.

“He’s an extremely musical young man who is also very conscientious about his work in the choir, and brings a remarkable natural ability to what he does,” said Woodrow Bynum, music director at the cathedral and choir master. “He is a genuinely warm and caring young man and we’re very pleased to have him in the program.”

Aidan has been in the choir for two years and said he likes the sound of the low register of the men combined with the higher register of the boys. The choir has traveled all over the world, and Aidan has been to St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Manhattan and Smith College in Massachusetts to perform.

But he doesn’t sing only in soaring, sacred spaces. Aidan sang the national anthem to start the Ride for Missing Children this year and played a hard-hearted orphanage manager in Birchwood Elementary School’s production of “Hard Knock Life.”

“I liked that I got to be mean,” Aidan said.

Being mean is, however, just an act. The tow-headed fifth-grader is thoughtful and polite, eager to put his best foot forward.

“Aidan is a very kind and creative member of our classroom,” said his teacher, Amy Isenhart. “He often has us all in stitches during our morning meeting. Aidan’s talents are impressive, but what I find most remarkable about Aidan is his willingness to share those talents to help others. In September, Aidan got up before dawn to inspire cyclists who were participating in this year’s Ride for Missing Children by singing our national anthem. I look forward to hearing Aidan sing his way through Niskayuna schools and beyond.”

Science is his favorite subject and when he grows up, Aidan hopes to be a singer, firefighter, police officer or a swimmer. He plans to keep singing all the way to adulthood and beyond.

“I’ve got the talent,” Aidan said. “Now I just have to work hard to improve and be the best I can be.”

He has plenty of people to look up to and try to emulate. Among them is fellow choir member and lead boy singer, Oliver Nathanielsz. Aidan likes the way his voice sounds and affects others, calling Nathanielsz’s voice “ear candy.”

Aidan’s voice is clear and confident, and perfectly on pitch, which according to some is an effect of the autism. In addition, Aidan perceives music differently.

“Being on the spectrum affects me with music because I grasp the music better,” he said.

His mother said he sometimes sees colors when he hears sounds and music.

Next year, Aidan will head off to Iroquois Middle School, where he plans to continue playing and studying music and singing.