Jordan Kitt’s & the DCACC host Clarissa Bevilacqua backstage at Merriweather Post Pavilion

Howard County Plays, a partnering of Jordan Kitt’s, the Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission, and the Columbia Festival of the Arts, hosted international violin phenom Clarissa Bevilaqua backstage at Merriweather Post Pavilion this week.

As part of an outbound effort to bring local and international artists to the Howard County community, this marks the first community concert of 2019 featuring one of the world’s great, young violinists, accompanied by master pianist Terry Lowry.

Praised for enchanting the audience with her musical interpretation and style, Clarissa has always had a passion for music. She started playing the violin at age five, and debuted at the Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago in front of ten thousand people when she was nine years old. She has performed at Carnegie Hall in New York, and has given solo recitals and concerts in the United States and Europe.

Chris Syllaba
Chris Syllaba, President & CEO of Jordan Kitt’s Music introduces Clarissa to a near capacity audience this week.

The audience was also presented with a preview of “Hear Us”, a reality series focused on the lives, struggles and successes of three young artists seeking to attain the top tier of international musicianship in their respective disciplines.

To learn more about events like this in Howard County, visit Howard County Plays, Jordan Kitt’s Music, The Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission, or the Columbia Festival of the arts.

Blind 6 year old piano prodigy plays Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody

Avett Ray Maness is a 6-year-old piano prodigy from Dayton, Ohio, who not only taught himself to play piano by ear – but he’s also blind.

“The moment he could pull himself to reach the piano, he was playing the melody to ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,'” Avett Ray’s mom, Sara Moore, told CBS News. That was when he was just 11 months old. Avett Ray has since gotten a piano teacher, who helps him learn new techniques and classical tunes.

“Music is in his body,” Moore said. “He’s really practicing on performing now. Since his talent is so amazing, people are asking him to perform.”

One of his upcoming events includes a performance for a Ronald McDonald House fundraiser in April. He also performed for the entire faculty and staff of Centerville, Ohio schools, Nine hundred people were in attendance and it was his biggest performance to date, Moore said.

Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody Piano Cover with Crossover by Avett by Avett Ray on YouTube

Avett Ray’s first viral video was one in which he asked his mom to send his songs to superstar Adele. She was Avett Ray’s favorite singer at the time and the cute video of the boy asking his mom to text Adele spread like wildfire online. It was even picked up by the local news.

Now, Avett Ray loves to perform “Queen” and the “Turtles.” The Oscar-nominated movie “Bohemian Rhapsody” intrigued Avett Ray, who did his own cover of the title song. It’s the latest video to go viral for the young piano prodigy.

Happy Together by The Turtles Cover by Avett by Avett Ray on YouTube

Avett Ray was also inspired to try rapping by his mom’s fiance. His musical preference is always changing, Moore said.

What makes this musical prodigy so inspiring is that he was born with optic nerve fibroplasia. “He’s completely blind in one eye but has a little bit of vision in the other,” Moore said. “He’s significantly visually impaired. He walks with cane and he reads braille.”

Moore wants to teach others to be accepting and understanding of people with special needs. She visits Avett Ray’s school to teach students about his condition. She also wrote a book called “Cotton Candy Clouds” to raise awareness and show support for visually impaired and blind people.

“He’s the character in the book,” Moore said. “Basically, he couldn’t see the clouds in the sky, so I wrote this book so he could see them.” The book serves as “a chance to talk about diversity and how everybody’s made special and we’re all born with our own gifts,” Moore said. “I teach people how to engage with blind and visually impaired people.”

Moore says the amount of resources available to blind and visually impaired people is still somewhat limited — considering how many people are affected by these conditions. “If every company would focus on inclusion … what a difference it would make for so many Americans,” she said.

Avett Ray is an old soul, his mom said. And with a talent this extraordinary, it’s clear he was born with a ton of soul.