Web Exclusive: Pennsylvania teen with autism captivates audiences through music


YORK, Pa. (WHTM) — Every year, hundreds of music lovers flock to hear the musical performances of the York Youth Symphony Orchestra, but many may not know the story behind one of their trumpet players.

There are very few 15-year-olds who have been playing for under two and a half years that can play the way Andy Milsten plays the piano. He connects with music in a way that he doesn’t connect with anything else.

When he was born, we didn’t know anything about autism and he wasn’t diagnosed until he was three,” Craig Milsten, Andy’s dad said.

“I started playing music when I was 9 and eventually they thought the trumpet, since it only has three valves, they thought it was the best chance for me to succeed as a musician,” Andy Milsten said.

“The main reason we steered him towards the trumpet is because we knew that fine motor skills were not involved as much,” Amy Milsten, Andy’s mom said. “We didn’t know if he could sit up there with his classmates. We didn’t know if he could actually play. We didn’t know if he could do any of those things.”

“He actually played in the band with the rest of the school. This was cause for great celebration. This was something we never thought would happen,” Craig said.

“It was fun and I really enjoyed myself up there, and I’m, like, this is so cool, I can’t believe I’m actually doing this,” Andy Milsten said.

The York Youth Symphony Orchestra is a student orchestra that comprises students from mostly York and Adams counties.

“Our mission is to expand their repertoire knowledge and to do advanced music that at each local high school may not be accessible,” orchestra director Brian Buterbaugh said. “He worked and worked and worked and worked, and single-minded focus like most people on the autism spectrum can do sometimes, and he made it.”

He loves it because this is the one area where he’s not special needs.

“We still can’t believe that the same kid that couldn’t pick up a Cheerio and has trouble buttoning his dress shirt to go to a concert can play the way he can play,” Amy Milsten said.

“Even if there isn’t an indication that there’s going to be a capability there, you just have no idea what could come down the pike,” Buterbaugh said.

Don’t ever discount the possibilities, because they’re endless.

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