Boynton Beach man on the autism spectrum turns music ability into a profession

BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. - Phil Mann of knows his way around the piano.

"If I heard it, I could learn it.  If I could say it, I could play it," he said.

He also knows his way around the saxophone, the xylophone, a type of harp and the guitar.

"For 40 years this has become a part of me, a part of my thought process," he said.

A room in his Boynton Beach home is a virtual music studio for this 58-year-old who took to music as a youngster.

"It was my refuge from the so-called real world. People on the autism spectrum are often in their own world, and I was no exception," he said.

It's not unusual for those on the autism spectrum to learn subjects quickly without a teacher.  That's what happened to Mann. He knew as a child he had a special musical ability.

"Music spoke to me in a way that was crystal clear. I hear pitches and frequencies like other people hear words," said Mann.

But he also knew something was different.

"It wasn't until before my mother died and explained what Asperger Syndrome was.  Only then did the final puzzle piece in my head fall into place as to why I couldn't keep a job for more than a year," he said.

Traditional jobs didn't work out, but music led him to playing with different bands.

"If I could get my hands on an instrument and a frequency chart, I can pretty much teach myself in a month how to play such instruments," he said.

Music is more than a refuge for him.  It's become his way of life: practicing, playing and performing.

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