Performer John Mikkah Thompson’s life is a unique story he and his family willingly share. John was born Dec. 20, 1993 to Grant and Tammy Thompson of Shelby County. It wasn’t until John was past the age when most kids start talking that his family knew they had been given a unique child.
“At first, autism seemed a little scary for us, but as John grew it became clear that he would become a huge joy in our lives,” his parents say.
His father says, “When John was about 5 years old, I was taking piano lessons and failing badly. I bought a pretty nice little keyboard so I was determined to see it through. After a lot of perfectly good money was thrown away on the lessons, I decided to face the fact that I wasn’t going to be a musician. This is where the real reason for buying the keyboard came to pass…whenever John walked past the keyboard he wanted to reach out and push the keys. He was fascinated by the sound and his eyes would always get that shine to them when he hit the keys. As a parent looking for any way to connected with my child who couldn’t talk to me, I made the decision to put the keyboard in his room and show him how to turn it off and on… It was rarely ever in the ‘off’ mode. John was as happy as could be because he was in control of something. When he pushed the keys, he was making something happen!”
“None of us expected what came next,” his father continues. “I never liked sleeping in a quiet house so there was always music playing at night when we slept, always. By the time John was 6 or so he began mimicking the sounds that he heard at night. He was teaching himself to play real music! It wasn’t long before he figured out how to add violin, guitar, harp, organ and drums to his creation. The thing is, I didn’t show him how to record anything and layer his music and I know he didn’t read the handbook either, because he still couldn’t talk, let alone be able to read! By the time John was 8 years old he could listen to just about anything and play it the same day.”