When you hear a performance by the The Passing Notes, Montclair High School’s student-run A Cappella group, it’s easy to become fans of these amazingly talented performers. The Passing Notes sing for free at various fundraisers, community events and concerts, including most recently at Van Vleck House. Stephen Colbert is a fan; he had the group warm up his audience recently with a performance before The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
But The Passing Notes’ biggest fan just might be Michael, a Bloomfield teen with autism who was treated to a very special performance to celebrate his 13th birthday.
Michael had started sixth grade in September and his mom Grace Sullivan says the transition from elementary to middle school had been a difficult one for him socially. Michael’s aunt Maureen Connolly, who lives in Montclair, wanted to do something to help make Michael’s birthday in November special.
“I met Christina Baker-Kline in a writer’s group and we became good friends. I knew her son Eli was in Passing Notes,” says Connolly. “I also knew Michael loved music. I thought it might be nice for him to have some teenagers show up to his house and sing to him on his birthday.”
Connolly reached out to Eli Kline, hoping maybe he and another student could show up to sing at Michael’s party, even though it was just 24 hours notice and the party was in Bloomfield.
On the night of the party, all The Passing Notes performers came walking through the door, one by one, to the surprise of Michael, who suddenly saw 15 teenagers showing up to his birthday party. Then they began singing to him, one beautiful song after another, including, of course, “Happy Birthday.”
“There wasn’t a dry eye in the house,” says Sullivan, adding that the visit from The Passing Notes made her son so happy. “Michael loves music, knew the words to some of the songs they sang and was singing along with them.” The teens, who gave Michael high-fives and hugs, and even shared their Instagram accounts with him, made Michael, who tends to get along better with older kids and adults, feel so included.
Connolly was so touched that all those Montclair High students took time out of their lives to come and make a younger kid’s birthday party so moving and memorable. “I told Michael ‘I brought some friends to come and sing for you,’ and his face just lit up. Then he said ‘how did they know, how did they know to come?'”
Sullivan adds, “It was his best birthday ever. They are amazing kids and they helped a boy who sometimes feels very left out feel very, very special.”
Watch The Passing Notes performance for Michael here. You can also catch them this weekend at MHS Holiday Gift Bazaar.