The Hi Hopes are a highly-talented musical group, consisting entirely of persons with intellectual disabilities who have entertained and inspired audiences for over thirty years. Performing in many concerts across the country, appearing in numerous television programs, and playing locally for various community and business events, the Hi Hopes are truly a unique musical phenomenon.
Among Hi Hopes members are persons with Down Syndrome, Autism, Williams Syndrome, Fragile X, PKU, and other intellectual disabilities. All members of the group are extremely gifted, and many are considered musical savants, who, despite their (sometimes multiple) disabilities, have talents that approach a “genius” level and often exceed that of professional artists. Their talents are evidenced by the size of the group’s repertoire, which includes hundreds of pieces of music committed to memory.
Their TV credits are many, including ABC-TV’s Life Goes On, Good Morning America, Inside Edition, and talk shows such as Geraldo, Sally, LA In The Morning, 700 Club’s Straight Talk, the CNN Network, and local news shows.
The group’s perseverance and determination is inspiring to all who have had the great opportunity to experience a Hi Hopes performance. It is impossible to walk away unaffected by the group’s infectious spirit and their love of music and entertaining. The group reveals first hand the power of the human spirit to reach out, touch, entertain, and educate through music.
Paul sings and is the drummer for the Hi Hopes. He was born in Japan to a Japanese mother and an American father. A blind, autistic musical and calendar savant, Paul has perfect pitch, an extraordinary baritone voice, and an encyclopedic knowledge of 50’s, 60’s and 70’s popular music. Paul’s talent inspired the formation of the Hi Hopes and Hope University (now Hope Center for the Arts).
Shortly after his birth in Osaka, Japan… (Keep Reading)
Richard and Paul are the 2 remaining original members of the Hi Hopes. Rich first met Paul in 1969 at Hope High School, a High School for students with special needs in Anaheim, CA. A couple of years later, Doris Walker formed the band with Rich, Paul and several others. In the early days Rich played marimba, sang back up and helped out Bill Oderkuerken (a former Hi Hopes singer) with some of Bill’s crazy stage gags.
These days Rich sings with the band and helps set up. Rich has an uncanny memory. It may take him awhile to learn something, but once it’s there, he never forgets it. He knows how to set up the electronic drum set, as well as other equipment, by himself. He’s also given the director accurate directions to performance venues that he’s hasn’t been to for years!
Rich is an accomplished bowler and has helped his league win State Championship several times. He’s a huge Angels fan. He likes going to movies, to Disneyland (where his brother works) and on ocean cruises with his family.
BIO COMING SOON
Ron is an autistic musical savant who plays many instruments, has perfect pitch and a repertoire of over 5000 songs. Born with numerous birth defects, he was orphaned as an infant, and endured upwards of 100 reconstructive surgeries by the time he was 9. Ron’s childlike enthusiasm, passion for every new song and indefatigable industriousness is an inspiration to everyone who knows him. (Keep Reading)
Cathy sings lead and backing vocals with the Hi Hopes. She has an extraordinary soprano and, like most of the Hi Hopes, has hundreds of songs of many different styles committed to memory. She’s especially fond of Barbara Streisand, Patsy Cline, Bette Midler, Judy Garland, Lisa Minelli, and Connie Francis. Her renditions of their songs can be astonishing.
Besides music, Cathy loves to crochet, read, write and travel with her family. She’s especially obsessed with British Royal history and has an impressive store of facts in her head – she refers to herself as an Anglophile. When in high school she took California State championship in Special Olympics gymnastics.
Cathy was born with PKU (Phenylketonuria), a syndrome where the liver does not process certain amino acids properly. The result is that meat is consumed, nerve cells are destroyed – including brain cells. Cathy is one of the youngest people suffering the debilitating effects of the syndrome – the screening test was developed in the early sixties, and testing for PKU is now mandatory at birth.
Bass player for the Hi Hopes, Carl is a musical savant with perfect pitch and a highly trained ear, who has hundreds of songs committed to memory. He is diagnosed with ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder).
Carl began playing piano at age eight, trumpet in fifth grade, violin and viola in six grade, then sousaphone in middle school. By eighth grade he was playing sousaphone in his high school’s band. After high school, Carl switched back to viola to join the orchestra at Washington University in St Louis, MO. He then moved to Mississippi where he played viola in various community orchestras for several years.
He heard about the Hi Hopes from a fellow attendee at an Autism Awareness conference in 1992. Carl immediately sought out the director of Hope, moved to California and started playing bass and keyboard with the band.
One the younger members of the Hi Hopes, Tom started showing an talent for singing at an early age. The first time his dad heard him sing was at age 4 when he started singing, Jesus Loves Me in the car while on vacation. A few years later Tom went missing and his dad found he had ridden his bike to their pastor’s house, who was accompanying him on the piano. From about that time he started singing regularly at church. One of his early memorable solo performances was when he sang for his church’s Lady’s Tea Trinity at age 10. He left them all in tears.
Tom was born with Fragile X syndrome, a genetic disorder where the X chromosome is compromised. Tom loves to sing and performs regularly with the Hi Hopes and the Hope Choir. His favorites are religious music, songs from the Disney catalog and Broadway numbers. For Hope’s in school dances he’s our resident DJ with his own system that he sets up himself. He loves to keep busy and enjoys helping out with chores around home, group home and school, and is always joyfully there to lend a helping hand. Tom loves kids – he’s a big kid himself – and loves to perform for them. He loves to imitate Kermit, Yoda, Elvis – and the Geico Geko. He’s also a star basketball shooter – he can execute a swish from 30+ feet!
Raymond plays piano and keyboard with the Hi Hopes. He is a musical savant with perfect pitch whose specialty is African-American Gospel, R&B and Blues, all learned and played by ear. He was born with Rubenstein-Taybi Syndrome.
Starting at 8 months, Raymond shared the piano or organ keyboard with his twin brother, Ben, as they played along with the radio. Raymond has the recollection of learning, “Jesus Loves Me” at 22 months. He began performing at church gatherings when he was 7.
In 1996 Ray’s Dad heard about the Hi Hopes after they performed at a local Seattle church while they were on tour. Shortly after, Ray moved to Southern California with his sister, Cloretta, and enrolled at Hope.
Raymond’s R&B/Gospel stylings coupled with his exuberance is a highlight of a Hi Hopes performance. Kids especially love him, probably because Ray’s childlike, unbridled enthusiasm for the music and the audience (especially children) is infectious.
Howard plays piano and keyboard for the band. He’s the most recent full-time addition to the Hi Hopes lineup. Howard has absolute pitch and demonstrates savant-like qualities in his musical ability. From an early age, he showed signs of elevated physical and mental abilities, but at the age of 3 ½ years he was hit by a car and suffered a traumatic brain injury.
Howard began studying music at Yamaha School of Music when he was 7, and continued with private piano music lessons until the age of 17. He’s the only member of the band that can read music, but has a gift for memorization of music as well.
He’s also a classic movie buff, and has a vast store of movie trivia in his head. His favorite band is KISS.