The Aite ensemble, based in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, is a group of young people on the autistic spectrum, aged between 15 and 39, who use music to connect with the world around them.
The group’s founder, Sun Lili, came up with the idea of creating the ensemble after seeing her son, Beibei, who is severely autistic, excel at the piano.
Despite the challenges faced by those on the autistic spectrum, the Aite ensemble has become a symbol of hope, proving that people with autism can achieve great things with the right support.
When the group first started, there was no training space or teacher available. Sun used her home as a classroom and invited Beibei’s piano teacher to come and work with the ensemble.
Because autistic children take longer to process information, their mothers had to memorize all the key points in class and practice the musical pieces with the children at home until they had mastered them.
The ensemble’s first performance was on an open-air stage in a small village. Despite the sparse audience and the sweltering heat, the children gave it their all and impressed their mothers and other onlookers.
The Aite ensemble’s reputation grew, and they soon found themselves performing on bigger stages, including the music theme hall of the Futian District Culture Center in Shenzhen.
The group’s first “Star Concert” was a huge success, receiving registrations from over 700 people despite having a capacity of only 300.
As well as performing, the Aite ensemble also runs public music courses for people on the autistic spectrum in Shenzhen, allowing them to make connections with the real world and develop their musical talents.
One of the group’s key members, Xiaodai, initially began learning the keyboard in a public course hosted by the Aite ensemble. He was an early beginner at the piano, but had experience with wind instruments, which helped him become a key member of the ensemble.
Although he struggles with verbal communication, Xiaodai is confident on stage and can play the ocarina skilfully as part of the ensemble.
The Aite ensemble’s journey from one member to twelve has been difficult, but also inspiring. Their “voices” are being heard by more and more people, and their performances have become a source of pride for their families and communities.
Through music, the Aite ensemble is breaking down barriers and raising awareness about the challenges faced by those on the autistic spectrum. Parents of autistic children from other places have come to Shenzhen to learn from the group’s model.
Despite the challenges they face, the Aite ensemble’s members are proof that people with autism can achieve great things and make valuable contributions to their communities.
Sun Lili, the group’s founder, hopes that through the power of music, more people will come to understand and appreciate the abilities of those on the autistic spectrum.