Find the Beat of Your Own Drum: The Story of The AutistiX
Join us for a unique and special evening as guests of The AutistiX and the Zur-Szpiro family.
Susan Zur-Szpiro, unexpected band manager, will share her incredibly moving story of her life journey from young, ambitious Psychologist and MBA student balancing the demands of motherhood with 3 daughters and then a son with an un-inherited genetic abnormality and severe disabilities, to her surprising role setting up and managing the UK’s premier autistic rock band, The AutistiX.
The AutistiX are a unique rock band who write and perform their own songs as well as adding a fresh edge to favourite covers. Close-knit band members Jack and Saul—each of whom has autism plus other challenges—are joyful performers with a deep passion for music. And their music is resonating all over the world with thousands of global followers. This coming together of unique young men who defy stereotypes and refuse to be limited by their challenges, is capturing worldwide attention for all the right reasons.
This is a story about the power of music to bring people together and to celebrate our different slant on life.
The AutistiX are not an ‘autistic’ band but a band proud to include musicians with autism, and proud of their creative song writing and performing talent. Unusually, and against most business models, they have 2 core missions – as well as being the best musicians they can be, their goal is to promote fuller social inclusion of musicians with disabilities and valuing all people.
Susan’s son, Saul, the band’s drummer, suffers from multiple and complex disabilities of which autism is only one challenge, also including debilitating learning difficulties, severe visual impairment, communication difficulties, physical impairments, and is very dependent on others for all of his personal care needs. He suffers from many serious health issues and requires medication several times per day.
“When Saul was young, he couldn’t do very much of anything” says Susan. “We used to call him our ‘living doll’.” Although he also suffers from hyperacusis—meaning he finds noise to be painful including unexpected environmental noises such as barking dogs, fireworks, car horns, and crying babies—Saul surprised his parents as a child by perking up when he heard rhythmic and repetitive sounds such as football chants, doorbell chimes and, of course, music! An epiphany came when Saul’s sister’s guitar teacher picked him up and sat down with him at his sisters’ drum kit. He could barely reach the pedals or hold the sticks,” Susan recalls, “but it was really one of those light-bulb moments. His eyes lit up like I had never seen before. In that moment, I realized drumming could be something for him.”
The story of how people get a germ of an idea that subsequently develops into a successful business is familiar, but it is quite unusual for someone to capture awareness of potential musicality in someone very disabled to forming a successful rock band that had performed hundreds of gigs at home and abroad, appearing on TV and having documentaries made about them. Susan is proud to share her experiences of developing from a local community music group to becoming a functioning band and witnessing the positive effects of music on her son Saul and his bandmates.
Best of all, her unlikely rockstars band will perform for Circle Square and Susan will be happy to take questions and discuss the successes and challenges of running The AutistiX.
Refreshments will be served. And please note this is a MEMBERS ONLY event.
About The AutistiX
That is the name of our unique rock band, because the young men who started the band (and named it) are autistic. It gives the band a novel angle on life and adds to our creativity, while acknowledging the challenges that autism adds to our lives. We write and perform our own evocative songs that are written from the heart. Our stage act is high energy as we love to bring our music to our audiences and our mission to inspire people with our determination, our belief in ourselves and to show the talent of musicians with disabilities and to encourage people to follow their own dreams and passions.
The AutistiX are Jack Beaven-Duggan (acoustic and electric guitar plus backing vocals); Saul Zur-Szpiro (drums and backing vocals); Jim Connelly (lead singer); John Duggan (electric guitar/bass/vocals); Michael Zur-Szpiro, (harmonica) and recently have been joined by Simon Bild (bass guitar and piano).
The band has performed at legendary UK venues (The Dublin Castle Camden Town, The Cavern Club Liverpool, O2 Academy Islington, The Barfly Chalk Farm, Brighton Dome, Star and Garter, The Monarch Chalk Farm, The White Rock Hastings, etc.).We appear at open air festivals, community, and charity events. We even performed once with Sir Tom Jones on stage and helped the charity to achieve their highest ever fundraising record! We always bring in a sizeable crowd at our gigs.
Recently our drummer Saul inspired a wonderful feature film to be made about a drummer with autism who meets an ex-boy band musician and how they transform each other’s lives. He is in the film playing hand drums in a number of drum circle scenes and, amazingly, a snatch of one of our newest songs ‘I Am As I Am’ is in the film! The film is on Netflix and is called ‘I Used to Be Famous’. It reached no 2 in the UK and no 4 globally.
Just before the pandemic, a new documentary was made about The AutistiX and included the drummer Rick Jupp (ex-Elbow) as he has a son (also a drummer) who is autistic. It was shown on BBC’s The One Show, and we played live on the show. Also, before Covid stopped normal lives, we played a couple of incredible gigs for Worldwide Autism Awareness Week by playing in Liverpool, at the renowned ‘Cavern Club’, and at the Doors Club, in Constanta, Romania.
A number of documentaries and articles have been written about our outstanding band and we have a global reach of followers nearly 5000 on Facebook and over 1000 on Twitter and increasing all the time!
Previous documentaries include, ‘Autism Rocks – The AutistiX’ on the Guardian Website, ‘Amazing Humans’ on BBC 3. Prosieben TV made a Galileo programme about The AutistiX and autism. There are a number of music videos on our website www.theautistix.com, and on our other social media sites. Our recorded music can be found on all of the leading digital music sites e.g., Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music and many more. We have been interviewed for many publications in the US and UK, and Europe including when the US magazine. Premier Guitar wrote expansively about The AutistiX a few years ago.
We are thrilled to be able to perform live again following the Covid pandemic and are proud of how we kept going throughout lockdown, releasing our latest EP ‘I Am As I Am’ with 4 of our newest songs in September 2022. We are working on our newest songs (10 in process from our prolific band!) for our next EP and are rehearsing for a number of upcoming gigs.