Orchestra program brings out the best in a student with autism: Noah’s music journey helps him find his passion for music and improves his communication skills with the help of music

Orchestra program brings out the best in a student with autism: Noah’s music journey helps him find his passion for music and improves his communication skills with the help of music

Kaitlyn Meyer

     Whether it’s a hard-working adult with a 9-5 job and a family to feed, a diligent high-school student with what seems like a million essays to get done, a musician preparing for a concert, or an athlete who’s jittery before their big game, everyone needs that one outlet that helps when they’re stressed or upset. 


Meeting Noah Marroquin

     The orchestra program is that outlet for Soph. Noah Marroquin. Marroquin is in the WO Chamber Orchestra, the highest level orchestra our school program provides. He is a very talented individual who has a passion for music. One of Marroquin’s goals is  “making other people feel the same joy” he does when listening or playing music. However, Marroquin isn’t your average musical student, he is a violinist who has autism. 

     He is in the 1st violin section, joining the best violinists in the entire district. He first started learning how to play his violin when he became a 5th grader at Woodside. He played all throughout middle school at Macatawa Bay, then made West Ottawa’s Symphony Orchestra his freshman year. 

What Makes Noah Unique?

     Orchestra director Chris Meyer said that “Noah is so unique, just like everybody is a unique individual. Autism manifests itself differently for every student who has autism… When he struggles, he does everything in his power to make it right. ” Marroquin has overcome many obstacles to become the musician he is today. It’s hard to learn how to play an instrument, let alone play it really well. 

     With autism, it makes playing very complicated for Marroquin when trying to figure things out when many things are happening at the same time. For example, listening to himself play, listening to the rest of the orchestra, playing the right notes, moving his bow, making sure not to rush or slow down, playing the correct rhythms, and watching the director conduct. 

     According to a study by the University of Strathclyde, “Young people with autism may find it difficult to multitask because they stick rigidly to tasks in the order they are given to them.” Marroquin is amazing at asking questions and trying to figure things out on his own, but for multitasking, playing is a struggle to figure multiple things out at one time. Marroquin said he still “struggles with knowing when to change fingerings or when to shift into difficult positions…” because he has to focus on so many other skills at the same time. This makes playing an instrument challenging for him. Trying to learn new skills while still trying to remember the old ones is arduous. 


How Did Music Change His Life?

     This is Marroquin’s sixth year of playing his violin at West Ottawa, and orchestra has had a dramatic impact on not only the musician but the person he has become. Marroquin happily explains that “[Orchestra] changed my life because I have something to look forward to. Playing music makes me feel really good.” 

     As a high school student, it can be difficult when balancing five other classes at a time, and it’s very easy to struggle and become stressed. Marroquin’s passion for orchestra is the highlight of his day. Not only is he very talented and in love with music, but he has a passion to share his gift and love for music with other people. “Playing music makes me feel even better when it makes others happy.”. Throughout orchestra, Marroquin has a gift that he gets to share with the world with a smile in his heart. 


What Does Noah Learn From Orchestra?

     There’s a lot to learn from what seems like a simple music class. According to Meyer, “Things like organization, hard work, perseverance, dedication, teamwork…” are taught in orchestra on the daily, and it’s recently helped shape Marroquin into a hard-working and dedicated student. 

     Marroquin has also noticed a change in his student skills because “[Orchestra] taught me good study skills because if I want to be better, I have to practice.” Learning to practice when he doesn’t understand how to do something is an exceptional skill that Marroquin can use in the actual world, especially when Marroquin leaves high school. His plans consist of “…learning how to play the cello… becoming a part of the Holland Symphony as an adult… and my parents want me to study music in college, (but I’m not sure if I will).” He will take on any challenge that he faces when he grows older because orchestra has taught Marroquin so many life skills and benefits.


My Personal Experience With Noah

     Personally, I have known Marroquin for over 5 years. I first met him when he was entering middle school. We both attended a program called Jr Strings, a middle school orchestra program that takes place downtown Holland. Through my experience with supporting Marroquin and helping him in his high school courses like math and history, he has taught me more than any class or teacher ever could.

     He puts in so much more effort than anyone I have ever met. He asks countless questions to make sure he gets everything right the first time. I truly believe that being in orchestra has made him a better student and a harder worker. Nothing about him inspires me more than watching him play his violin the way he does. He works hard because he loves orchestra, and I’m so happy that he has come so far as a student because of it. The way he moves when he plays shows me just how much he personally connects with the music.

Noahs’ Greatest Successes 

     Through all the challenging times of practicing and learning his musical skills, Marroquin has accomplished many triumphs. Meyer recalled one of his favorite memories of his student, “When Noah had a solo last year, he played it, and he played it well. I could just tell by his expression that he was happy that all the work he put into it had paid off.” 

     Meyer wasn’t the only one happy about that solo. Marroquin was very proud of himself as he states that “I really enjoyed playing my solo in the 9th grade. Everyone asks me if it made me nervous, and it didn’t. I like playing with people and for people.” Not only does Marroquin perform beautifully, but he, again, wishes that his music makes others happy. 

     This solo wasn’t the only accomplishment that Marroquin and his teacher were super proud of. Meyer presented Noah with the Freshman Award of 2019-2020 last year. Only a freshman can win the award by other Orchestra members voting for who they thought deserved the award most. “I had to tell him he won virtually,” said Meyer “He was really excited and proud that other students voted for him to win that award.”

Noahs’ Plans For The Future

     Music has truly affected Marroquin forever, and it will always be a part of who he is. Music brings him joy, and it’s a passion that his kind heart wishes to share with the world. Orchestra gives Marroquin something to look forward to when he’s stressed, and he uses music as that outlet to help express his emotions in his playing. “I would like to keep music a part of my life after I graduate high school.” Says Marroquin. And why wouldn’t he? Everyone should have an outlet that brings them joy. Why not continue to share his gift with the world? I think everyone should be like Noah, to find an outlet and have the heart to share what makes you happy.