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Music from the heart: Rock bands set to take the stage in Tempe

About 40 special needs students will have the chance to feel like a rockstar, while participating in a program that helps them form lifetime friendships.

The program is called Music from the Heart, part of the Higher Octave Healing music therapy organization. It has allowed young adults to form rock bands with names such as The Genius Guys, the Thrillers and the Billie Jeans. They have been practicing for about year, all in preparation for a concert on Saturday at Tempe Center for the Arts.

“I love to see that they are sharing with their family and friends in our community what they have achieved,” said Kymla Eubanks, the director of Higher Octave Healing.

She said it’s great if the young adults learn how to play the guitar or the drums, but the purpose of the rock bands is so much more.

“Our goal is to help them attain life skills,” Eubanks said. “They’re learning how to communicate with their peers, make decisions together, work together as a team and collaborate. The ultimate goal is that they will be able to go out in the community with the life skills they learn [and] get a job, volunteer, go to community college [and] just achieve their maximum independence in the community and give back.”

Eubanks said the band members have become fast friends, even hanging out outside of rock band practice. One of the members of the Billie Jeans is 23-year-old Joel, who was diagnosed with autism at the age of five. His mother, Barbara Keith, said it is difficult at times for him to communicate, but he really has connected with his bandmates.

“When he gets comfortable with a few people around and the same people, he does more conversation and he feels more able to talk and do things,” Keith said.

Four rock bands will perform at 1 p.m. Saturday with four more bands playing at 6 p.m. Tickets are still available, with all proceeds going to Higher Octave Healing music therapy.

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