By Joan Murray


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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Jacob Velazquez began taking piano lessons at the age of four, not long after he was diagnosed with a form of autism.

Now 11 years old, Jacob has been interviewed on national television, appeared live in concert with Harry Connick Jr. and performed with a handful of symphony orchestras.

“I don’t think I have ever told anyone this but I can’t really read music that well. I feel like everyone has a chance to do something like this in their life and now it’s my turn,” said Jacob.

11-year-old Jacob Velazquez. (Source: CBS4)

“When Jacob’s on stage I always say he becomes a performer but once he walks off he’s a typical kid,” said Jacob’s mother Tina Velazquez.

Jacob recorded his first album at age six. His piano teacher is nurturing his gift.

“I think that he understands things in ways that are very mysterious, but he really understands music,” said Giselle Brodsky.

Jacob’s musical talent extends beyond the piano, he also rocks on the drums.

“Jacob is an amazing example of the talents that are hidden inside that we really have to nurture and discover,” said Judy Nelson, co-founder of the Victory Center in North Miami Beach.

The center teaches children with autism and other disabilities.

Nelson has an adult child with autism.

Her non-profit center operates solely on donations. Jacob is teaming up the Victory Center to perform a solo benefit concert to raise money.

“The children that come to the Victory Center receive the therapies in a school environment so that they can also be with their peers and participate in opportunities that we think every child deserves,” said Dr. Tara Loughrey, director of the center.

“The message that we would like to get out there is that for individuals with child who have been touched by autism to basically try to not only just focus on their diagnosis, perhaps maybe try to nuture and discover abilities that their children may have,” said Jacob’s father Willie Velazquez.

Jacob’s solo concert to benefit the Victory Center will be held January 9th at the Aventura Arts & Cultural Center.

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