Friday, August 1, 2008

Musical Savant to Thrill Audiences
at Hilton-Winn Farm

By Joe Hessert
Staff Columnist

Tony Deblois weighed less than two pounds when he came into this world. He is autistic and blind, but there is one thing that he is able to see with crystal clarity: music. Tony has Savant Syndrome – meaning that paired with the limitations of autism he has a contrasting brilliance. He is a master musician and enjoys playing the organ, harmonica, guitar, harpsichord, English handbells, violin, banjo, drums, saxophone, clarinet, ukulele, mandolin flute and trumpet. But his favorite instrument is his Baldwin piano.
The Weekly Sentinel recently sat down with Tony and his mother, Janice Deblois, in Tony’s studio in Randolph, Massachusetts. Tony rocked back and forth gently on the bench in front of his piano and talked about what he has been up to lately. Janice looked on and chimed in with details here and there.
His favorite part about being a musician is a thirty day road tour that he does every year with his mother, driving across the country to South Dakota and down to Texas and back. “My mom is my manager and she does all the driving. We do twenty-three concerts on that tour. Mom’s my chauffer,” he said with a smile.
Tony’s favorite type of music is Jazz, but he plays just about everything. At the concert he is giving on August 9 at Hilton-Winn Farm in Cape Neddick he will be taking requests. With over eight thousand songs committed to memory, odds are that if you want to hear it Tony can play it for you. “Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond is probably the request I get the most,” he said.
“Tony can hear a song once and then sit down and play it,” his mother added. “He has been playing piano since he was two years old, took some lessons at five, and by the time he was nine he was performing in nursing homes.”
“My favorite song is Moon River,” Tony added and without any additional introduction, Tony turned to his upright Baldwin and began to play and sing his favorite song. As Tony rocked gently on the Piano bench and light streamed in from the window next to him the world seemed to become sharper as if Tony had stopped clearing his throat in answering questions about himself and had finally started to speak.
Tony talked about his recent trip to Nigeria where he was the guest pianist at a concert with The Four Nigerian Tenors and about his recent gig as the pianist for a fifty-piece symphony orchestra. “It was my thrill and privilege to play with them,” he said. “I got a little nervous but then I got so excited. I tuned the whole orchestra so I had each section turning to me and asking for their note.”
Just back from a week-long summer camp for the blind at Mount Blue State Park in Maine, Tony said he couldn’t wait to come back. “I go to Maine every year and it’s so beautiful there. I have lots of friends in Maine and camp gives me the chance to jam with friends and musicians,” he said.
After his performance at Hilton-Winn Farm next Saturday, Tony and his mother are packing up and heading to Beijing, China. International Performing Arts For All has asked Tony to do a series of concerts there. “It’s so exciting to travel and see more of the world,” Tony said.
And it’s exciting that Southern Maine will have the chance to see Tony perform. His concert will be held on August 9 at the Youth Enrichment Center at Hilton-Winn Farm in Cape Neddick from 7:00pm-9:30pm. “Some Kind of Genius” the book which chronicles Tony’s life (written by his mother) and copies of Tony’s CD will be for sale. Tony’s story was told in a CBS Movie of the Week, Journey to the Heart, in 1997. FMI about his upcoming performance call 361-1385 or visit For more info about Tony visit

Caption: Tony Deblois plays and sings Moon River at his studio in Randolph, MA. (Weekly Sentinel photo)