“Music Heals”: ​​Niagara Teen Discovers the Transformative Power of Song

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Audrey Winterstein, who was “mute for most of her life,” now sings on stage in the Niagara region; “It’s always a surprise to know what you are capable of”

Audrey Winterstein has come a long way in recent years.

For most of her life, the quiet girl stayed indoors, didn’t go out much, and didn’t go to school. But one day, when she was around 12, she suddenly decided to start singing.

Since then, her life has been transformed by music, and she now attends school and performs on stage across Niagara.

The 16-year-old, who was diagnosed with autism, anxiety and selective mutism, was “mute (for) most (of) her life”, according to local musician Victor Morgado.

Rachel Busman, a clinical psychologist who sits on the board of directors of the Selective Mutism Association, explained that a person with the condition may be a “total talker” at home, but unable to speak outside the home. home.

It’s sometimes misunderstood as shyness or caused by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which Busman says are “huge” myths. “Someone who’s shy warms up,” she says. “An hour of interaction and you would never know they were shy.”

And shyness doesn’t stop a person from having a job or being a student, Busman added. Awareness of the condition has improved in recent years, but Busman stressed there is still a long way to go.

At home in Jordan, Audrey is surrounded by creativity. Her mother, Jill Lunn, is an Indigenous artist and her stepfather Ryan Lunn is a musician. The house is full of creative energy and includes a grand piano surrounded by a gallery of paintings.

It was at this piano that one day, when Audrey was about 12 years old, she sat down and decided to start singing. At first, Audrey sang an unexpected mix of Japanese anime songs (in fluent Japanese), songs from the TV show “Glee” and the musical “Hamilton”.

Audrey estimates that she has memorized about 80% of Hamilton” and 20 anime songs. Ryan thinks learning a foreign language and paying attention to the pronunciation helped Audrey speak and sing in English. Audrey accepts. Now she sings with Ryan, covering the Beatles, Queen, Radiohead and other rock artists.

When asked why she likes to sing so much, Audrey simply replied, it’s fun. “Sounds good…it feels good when you sing and it sounds really goodRyan said that over the past two years music has helped her make ‘incredible progress’ in her life. “Music was one of the main outlets, even in his darkest times,” he said.

Audrey now performs on stage across Niagara. On June 12, she performed at the Superheroes of Autism Talent Showcase in Niagara Falls.

Jenn Wodynski, who organized the showcase, said Audrey was amazing and has improved a lot over the past few years. “It was hard to hold back the tears,” she said. “Music heals, it’s medicine.”

Wodynski first held the talent show in 2019 to give people with autism and other conditions such as Down syndrome ‘the chance to shine’ and be ‘treated like rock stars’ .

It is not only singers who can perform at the show, but also dancers, poets, magicians, comedians, artists and artisans.

Over the past few years, Audrey’s life has changed so much that she even started school last year by enrolling at Great Lakes Christian High School. “Now at school everyone talks to me,” she said.

Religion has also played a big role in helping Audrey, and Ryan describes her baptism about a year ago as a fresh start. She now attends Bethany Community Church, which Jill says has also helped the family.

“It’s always a surprise to see what you’re capable of,” she told her daughter, smiling.

“You make me very proud.”

Chris Pickles is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter for Niagara This Week. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.

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