Patrick Storey

Live Performance

2010 Nominee – Male Vocalist of the Year – 20th Annual LA Music Awards

The first time Jim Storey noticed his son Patrick’s vocal talent, they were in the car, listening to radio commercials.

Patrick, now 26, is autistic, and has limited verbal skills. But even as a preteen, he could mimic voiceovers on stations like KROC so precisely even passing drivers would comment that they thought they were hearing the radio.

“I knew then that he had a good ear,” Jim said.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is defined by the American Psychiatric Association as a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by persistent deficits in social communication, social interaction and restricted and repetitive behaviors, interests or activities.

About 25 percent of people diagnosed with ASD are considered to have nonverbal autism. Patrick’s words are often jumbled; he can find the correct words, but often his sentences are out of order.

To help socialize Patrick as a child, Jim had his son participate in a summer music program at Meadows Elementary in Manhattan Beach. A group of students were performing the songs from “Toy Story.”

“He struggled with the acting parts, but the person directing said he had the best voice here,” Jim recalled. He decided to sign Patrick up for private voice lessons with hopes that he could join choir when he began at Mira Costa High School.

Patrick began lessons with another instructor, but when professional singer and Coast Music founder Beth Rohde subbed one day, a connection was forged instantly.

“He had this golden voice,” Rohde said. “It was before his voice had changed, and it was the most beautiful soprano you’ve ever heard. So clear and so pure.”

Patrick at his home in Manhattan Beach. Photo by Brad Jacobson.
Patrick at his home in Manhattan Beach. Photo by Brad Jacobson.
Under Rohde’s guidance, Patrick’s singing voice flourished and he was accepted into two choirs when he began high school.

For Patrick, joining choir not only developed his singing abilities, but also gave him access to a new world of socialization.

“I used to stop by the campus and could see him walking across the hill and see students stop him and give him hugs,” Jim said. “Not only the music but the social context of singing was just great for him.”

Patrick especially liked attention from female classmates. When he was made manager of the freshman football team, Patrick was invited to attend the end-of-year banquet. Afterward, he complained to his father that in attendance were “just tenors and bases, no sopranos and altos.”

Patrick’s voice, even after puberty, remained so pitch-perfect that it was hard for other students to match. He adored harmonies and lit up when he heard them perfected.

“We call them his ‘eargasms,’” Rohde said. “He gets so excited and grabs his ears when he hears it.”

When Rohde put together a small vocal quartet with Patrick in mind, she soon learned that he was singing at such a high level, his peers could not keep up.

“Sometimes he’d interrupt a performance because someone was off-tune,” she recalled, laughing. “If they messed up, he’d get so stressed out.”

Autism’s penchant for music

Exceptional, even savant, music skills are not uncommon in children and adults with autism.

“As many as three in ten children with autism are nonverbal,” Dr. Gottfried Schlaug, director of the Music and Neuroimaging Laboratory, explained on the “Autism Speaks” website. “Yet many children with autism have superior auditory skills and a particular attraction to music.”

Music therapy is often indicated for autism patients, especially those with language difficulties. In the study “Music Therapy for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder: a Systematic Review,” researchers identified the benefits of exposing ASD patients to music at a young age. “The participants in these three studies were between 2 and 9 years of age, had been diagnosed with ASD, and received individual music therapy sessions,” the study reported. “A summary of the outcomes suggested that music therapy had positive effects on nonverbal communication, gestural communication and verbal communication.”

Studies run in the United Kingdom have gone a step further, positing that music therapy can help nonverbal autism patients utter their first words. Music and lyrics, in these cases, act as a kind of speech proxy. A 2011 study took the methods of music therapy to rehabilitate non-speaking stroke victims and applied them to ASD patients with similarly successful results.

Coast Music Therapy of San Diego has designed autism-specific programs to not only develop musical skills in these students, but to make use out of their innate abilities.

“Individuals with autism show equal or superior abilities in pitch processing, labeling of emotions in music and musical preference when compared to typically developing peers,” said Michelle Lazar, Coast Music’s founder. “The most compelling evidence supporting the clinical benefits of music therapy lies in the areas of social-emotional responsiveness and communication, including increased compliance, reduced anxiety, increased speech output, decreased vocal stereotypy, receptive labeling and increased interaction with peers.”

Patrick’s voice ignites

Singing is not only an outlet and a means for socializing for Patrick, but a vivifying activity.

“When he first joined choir, we had to teach him to keep his arms down,” Rohde said. “He gets so overwhelmed with excitement and joy, he has a hard time standing still.”

Watch Patrick on stage, and his passion is infectious. Patrick performed “Se Vuol Ballare” on June 5th, 2011 at Coast Music Conservatory’s Spring Recital, and the video has seen 400 views on YouTube. His tall, lanky frame moves with every note and an expression of absolute joy takes over his face. Each note is perfect, and even more impressively, Patrick is able to convey the deep emotions of Mozart’s triumphant aria from “The Marriage of Figaro.”

With every crescendo, Patrick’s body lifts with excitement. When he finishes the piece, the audience bursts into applause and the singer celebrates with a fist pump.

Patrick in the recording studio with Beth Rohde (far right) directing him.
Patrick in the recording studio with Beth Rohde (far right) directing him.
Jim Storey and Beth Rohde decided to put together a professional vocal group for Patrick. They named the group “StoreyTime” and hired three professional singers to perform alongside Rohde and Patrick. Jim pays the singers himself, as well as the costs of practice space and travel for gigs.

“Jim has designed Patrick’s entire life to be meaningful,” Rohde said. “He has always seen his son’s ability and wanted to give him a fulfilling life.”

StoreyTime made its debut at the 2nd Annual Evening for Autism benefit in Newport Beach, performing in front of a crowd of 600. They have since performed in numerous venues and events in greater Los Angeles, and were recently nominated for “Best Jazz Vocal Group” at the LA Music Awards. They provided background vocals on Rohde’s forthcoming solo album and recently recorded with three-time Grammy Award winner Anton Pukshanksy.

To assist in the cost of Patrick’s musical life, Jim founded a non-profit earlier this year. The mission of the 501(c) is to educate the public about autism and musical skill, as well as to entertain and inspire audiences of all kinds. This month, StoreyTime is holding its first fundraiser where the group will debut its first recorded album.

The six-song EP features two originals, as well as covers of some of Patrick’s favorite songs. He is especially fond of “Black Hole Sun,” by his favorite band, Soundgarden, and “I’ve Got Rhythm,” the most vocally-challenging of the tracks.

Michelle Crispin, a singer and music producer who is on the Storeytime team, explained the importance of one of the original songs on the album.

“’My Heart Beats a Symphony’ was written specifically for Patrick,” she said. “Patrick is not very verbal. We wrote it from what we thought Patrick’s point of view might be.”

The song was co-written by Heather Holley, a multi-platinum songwriter who works with Christina Aguilera.

“We’ve had a tremendous response to this song,” Crispin said. “Patrick’s father cries every time he hears it.”

For their first fundraiser Patrick, the StoreyTime team is going big. They are hosting a night of music at Trump National Golf Club in Rancho Palos Verdes on November 19. In addition to a performance by Patrick’s group, attendees will hear live music by a string trio, a massive choir and a kids’ a cappella group. Dinner, drinks and dancing will ensue. A silent auction, live auction and raffle offerings will include specialty bikes, a vacation to Greece, tickets to the American Idol and the Voice finales, a Fender guitar and the services of a personal chef.

Beth, Jim and Michelle hope the evening is successful, not only in fundraising, but in engaging the public about the special gifts autism renders. Every parent hopes to see his or her child find a fulfilling life, and, through song, Patrick has.

“He is the best son I could ever ask for,” Jim said, smiling.

if you go…

The StoreyTime Concert and Fundraiser will be held on Wednesday, November 19 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Trump National Golf Club, 1 Trump National Drive in Rancho Palos Verdes. Tickets are $165 and include dinner, dancing and musical performances. Proceeds from ticket price and auctions will go to StoreyTime, a501c non-profit. To register for the event, visit For more information about the event, contact Angie Deters at (310) 926-3039. For additional information on donation packages, contact Michelle at