"You can do it if you really try/ Don't give up/ Reach for the sky/ A spark in you has begun to grow/ Shout it for the world to know."
Reid Moriarty sings the inspirational lyrics from his self-written song "Shine" in front of audiences ranging from pre-schoolers to seniors. Oftentimes, audience members will tear up, his mother said.
Reid, 23, was diagnosed with autism at age 3. He hasn't let his disability slow him down. Early on, the Solana Beach resident found comfort and ease in expressing himself through music.
He's released three discs of original music, written with his 16-year music therapist, and plans to release the debut album by his new musical trio group, Jungle Poppins, later this month.
The Jungle Poppins album features classic Disney hits like "Bare Necessities," "I Wanna Be Like You" and "Under the Sea," as well as other covers and original tunes. Each song aims to teach listeners about various skills. A tune called "My Own Phone," for example, began as a lesson for Reid to keep track of his new smartphone, according to a news release.
Reid, who has been performing for audiences since he was 9, said being on the stage and singing for people makes him happy.
At his interactive pre-school performances throughout San Diego County, Reid will host a "Purple Party," which incorporates songs about the different colors of the rainbow.
During "Being Green," tots learn about recycling while playing with bottles. And as Reid sings the "Red Song," teachers play kazoos while sporting red firefighter hats.
"The kids think that's so funny," said Reid, who has held jobs at various retail stores and studied in programs at Earl Warren Middle School and Torrey Pines High School until he was 22.
His mother, Andrea Moriarty, said Reid has endured a variety of therapy, such as occupational and speech, but music has always been his favorite.
"For him, music has always been his best avenue for motivation and engagement with others," Andrea said. “[Music] literally uses a different part of the brain to generate language and uses the whole brain so he can recruit more skills through music than he can without. Music makes 40 hours of therapy a week fun."
His mother added that Reid has perfect pitch and early on, his music therapist identified that Reid was talented. The therapist then introduced him to performance opportunities as a guest artist for her own performances.
In addition to his musical performances, Reid also gives motivational speeches and hosts his own podcast where he interviews filmmakers, musicians, disc jockeys, dancers and other celebrities. One of his dream interviews, he added, is Jodi Benson — the voice of Ariel from Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.” Ideally, he said, he’d end his podcast by singing the film’s song “Part of Your World” with her.
Andrea said she believes her son is an inspiration for others and a perfect example of how a diagnosis doesn't need to mean "a dead end."
"I think, a lot of times, people see autism as an obstacle or worse," she said. "A lot of the programs and the educational system can just feel like a dead end. It's not a dead end. There are things he can do, and he's engaged in the community. He's inspiring others and is very much involved with relationships and the community. There's a future. There's hope in a future. That's true for all kids. But, I think, people watch Reid and they think, 'Wow. He's doing it.'"
Jungle Poppins — a two-year-old group that features one other member on the spectrum and is named after two of Reid's favorite Disney movies, "The Jungle Book" and "Mary Poppins — will launch their CD with a release show on July 31 at 7 p.m. at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach. Tickets are $9 when purchased in advance and $11 at the door. Portions of each ticket will be donated to Banding Together, a nonprofit aimed at bringing musical opportunities to children with special needs in San Diego.