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Musician James Durbin shares his Story and Struggles with ESE Students

October 24, 2017 - Points of Pride

James Durbin has overcome a lot of obstacles in his life to now being shining in the spotlight on stage. He shared his rough road to success with ESE students at Wharton High School on Monday. Tuesday, he played to a crowd of Lennard High and East Bay High ESE students.

The former American Idol contestant, now the frontman for heavy metal band Quiet Riot, was diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism at 10 years old. The previous year, his father passed away from a drug overdose. He feared his life was set up for failure.

“It seemed like everything was holding me down. I was labeled unable, and disabled, and unsocial. I was medicated,” Durbin said.

A hand-me-down guitar changed his path.

“I discovered music. I discovered something that really helped me to find my way, and find a way to be comfortable with who I am and with what I have,” said Durbin.

Durbin told students that he hasn’t let his diagnosis define him. The singer and guitarist tried out for American Idol Season 8, but didn’t make the cut. In 2011, the finalist ended up in fourth place on the show.

“I just really want people to know that successful people don’t have to come from successful backgrounds,” Durbin said. “I’ve been able to find happiness. I’ve been able to find success. It’s important that kids realize that, and realize right now isn’t everything.”

The married father and Quiet Riot lead singer insists he’s achieved what others said he never could.

“I don’t wake up and look in the mirror and say, ‘You have Tourette’s, you have Autism, these are the things that hold you down.’  I wake up every day and can’t wait to pick up my guitar and do the thing that makes me happy, or sing for my kids or write a song with my son,” said Durbin.

Lennard High School ESE students identify with what Durbin’s been through.

“To relate to someone who has similar qualities like that. I have Asperger’s but I don’t let it get to me anymore,” said Kyley, a Lennard High student.

“Different is sometimes okay. You don’t have to be exactly perfect. As long as you’re yourself, you can be successful,” said Lennard High student, Taylor.

Durbin hopes his story will have a big impact on at least one student in the crowd.

“If one person is like ‘Wow,’ then it’s totally worth it. It’s not how many you effect, it’s just that you effect,” Durbin said.

Lennard High student, Charlize, heard the message loud and clear. “I learned that sometimes it’s hard to be yourself, and you’ve got to find what you like and just find that passion and go on with your dreams.”

VSA Florida, the statewide organization on arts and disability, received a 2017 Challenge America grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and contracted Durbin to perform and speak in Tampa about facing challenges and advocating for inclusion.

Durbin is also performing Tuesday night at USF from 7-8:15: An Evening with James Durbin, USF Music Performance Hall, 3755 USF Holly Drive, MUS 101, Tampa, FL 33620.

For free tickets:

To learn more information about the latest events happening at the schools, follow them on Twitter:

Lennard High:

East Bay High:

Wharton High:


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