On Wednesday, November 8, 2017, The Embassy of the State of Qatar — in partnership with Autism Speaks — presented the first inaugural Autism Awareness Gala Fundraiser “Together for Autism: Ensuring Acceptance and Accessibility” at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Ethan Walmark, a Westport resident and Coleytown Middle School student, performed four songs to wild applause and standing ovations. After songs by Emerson Lake and Palmer, Billy Joel, and Elton John, Walmark closed his set with Stevie Wonder’s “You Are the Sunshine of My Life,” which he dedicated to his sister, Eliza, who sat in the audience.
Post-performance, Ms. Godfrey brought Ethan back on stage, and asked, “Now that you’ve played The Kennedy Center at age 12, what else do you hope to accomplish?” Without skipping a beat, Walmark replied, “Finish sixth grade.” Asked in what other venue he’d love to perform, young Walmark responded, “The Hollywood Bowl.”
The Gala honored United States Congressmen Mike Doyle (Pennsylvania) and Chris Smith (New Jersey), both strong supporters of autism research and education. The evening’s two Keynote Speakers were His Excellency Sheikh Meshal Bin Hamad Al-Thani, Ambassador of the State of Qatar to the United States of America, and Angela Geiger, President and CEO, Autism Speaks. In addition to Walmark’s performance, attendees were entertained by American singer and songwriter Rachel Platten, who rose to fame in 2015 with the release of the single “Fight Song.” Her album Wildfire (2016) was certified gold, and featured “Stand by You” and “Better Place.” Autria Godfrey, Emmy® award-winning news Anchor of Good Morning Washington and ABC7 News, hosted.
Walmark, a piano player since age 15 months — and is on the autism spectrum — became an Internet sensation in 2012 (age six), when a video of him singing and playing Billy Joel’s Piano Man went viral. Since then, People.com, has profiled the young sensation, he’s met Yoko Ono, John Mayer, Herbie Hancock, Marc Cohn, and Lez Zeppelin, School of Rock the Musical-, Jersey Boys-, and Motown the Musical-casts, and in addition to The Kennedy Center, Walmark has performed for crowds of +30,000, at some of the country’s most impressive venues:
- Bijou Theatre
- CBS’s Early Show
- Cipriani Wall Street
- Converse Rubber Tracks Studio
- Edison Ballroom
- Fairfield Theatre Company
- Highline Ballroom
- Hudson Theatre
- Jones Beach
- NBC’s “The Today Show”
- Prospect Park (Brooklyn)
- Red Bull Arena (performed the National Anthem for the Major League Soccer New York Red Bulls)
- Ridgefield Playhouse
- Santa Monica Pier
A School of Rock Fairfield music student, Ethan jams with musicians more than twice his age, and his band CLUELESS — comprised of School of Rock Fairfield House Band students — perform all over the metropolitan area. In the summer, Ethan attends French Woods Festival for the Performing Arts, a sleep-away camp which The New York Times wrote, French Woods [and two other camps] are “considered the gold standard of theater camps.”
Ethan lives with his parents Michael and Allison, and sister Eliza in Westport. He attends public school, is a stand-out in the music/theatre programs, plays no less than eight musical instruments, and much like Norm from “Cheers,” ‘everybody knows his name’.”
Ethan’s videos can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/user/fromatoz66/videos or
Google: Allison Walmark YouTube
About Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks is dedicated to promoting solutions, across the spectrum and throughout the lifespan, for the needs of individuals with autism and their families through advocacy and support; increasing understanding and acceptance of people with autism spectrum disorder; and advancing research into causes and better interventions for autism spectrum disorder and related conditions.
Autism Speaks enhances lives today and is accelerating a spectrum of solutions for tomorrow.
About Qatar and Autism
Qatar, one of the Middle East’s most affluent nations, is now poised to lead its region in a key area of medical care: awareness and support of people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
That emerging leadership is evident from Qatar’s major contribution in establishing the annual World Autism Awareness Day and from multiple mentions of the nation on the website of the international Autism Speaks advocacy organization. It’s also manifested by a proliferation of autism-related collaborative projects among Cleveland Clinic, the Qatar Biomedical Research Institute and Qatar University. Those projects all share a focus on screening, awareness and treatment of autism in Qatar, which has seen a recent sharp rise in demand for ASD services.
“We’re bringing state-of-the-art interventions to tackle a huge problem in a country that has not had much experience with addressing it,” explains Cleveland Clinic pediatric neurologist Mohammed Aldosari, MD, who is spearheading the collaborative projects.
“Most importantly, we’re training local people so they have the expertise to carry on the work when these projects are finished,” adds Dr. Aldosari, a native of Qatar’s neighbor, Saudi Arabia, who is helping plan an international symposium in Qatar in April 2017 to highlight advances and plan for the future.