Who can make his guitar "talk" like a classic rock star? Who can lay down a guitar riff masterpiece as the rock legends did in the 1970's?
Our very own Tony, that's who!
Tony is part of our Community Habilition program, funded by the New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD). For almost two years, he has lived in his own apartment in Albany, where he receives services a couple of times a week from Vanderheyden.
Tony, 26, is in his first semester at Hudson Valley Community College.
"I didn't know for a long time what I wanted to do," Tony said.
A trip to a new business in Latham to service his wheelchair, led him to a new career path in wheelchair sales. Tony said the way the salesperson at Monroe Wheelchair took measurements and worked with him, inspired him to want to help others with their technical needs.
"I understand the features on models of wheelchairs, and what may work for a person," Tony said. "Every person's physical needs are different."
Tony was also interested in other careers, but he wasn't sure if he had a strong enough passion for them. Now he said, he's on his way.
At HVCC, Tony has started off by taking a health class as part of a 24 credit program to obtain a GED. Staff members at the college's Center for Access and Assistive Technology are there to lend him a helping hand if he needs.
Since he has a visual issue, Tony relies on auditory methods to help him study. He makes use of headphones, audio books, and a tape recorder.
Tony has been a strict vegan for the past ten years, which has helped him conquer his health issues.
Recently, he gave his peers first-hand knowledge on the vegetarian lifestyle when the topic was discussed in class.
"They gave me a puzzled look," Tony said, as he talked about eating beans, peanut butter, and nuts, and using vitamin supplements. "You can live without eating meat," he told them.
Tony also holds down a part time job at the Center for Disability Services in Albany, where he helps ready the many documents they send out for state agencies. He also met Laurie there, his girlfriend of five years.
Vanderheyden has been providing services to Tony for the last four years, and helped him with his own apartment.
"I love it. It's my own space," Tony said. "I like to have my Mom have her own space now."
The program helped him set up his apartment, so it is handicap accessible to fit his needs.
He said CDTA and their Star bus "makes life much easier" for him, since they stop in front of his building.
Classic Rock and a guitar collection is a big part of Tony's recreational activity.
Tony's Mom Leisha gave him the idea to take up the guitar, after watching him play "Guitar Hero."
"If your fingers can push buttons like that, you can play a guitar," she said.
Tony's favorite tunes to play lead guitar on are "Bridge of Sighs" and "Long Misty Days," by 1970's great Robin Trower. He saw him perform recently at The Egg in Albany, and wished that he could have met him.
Tony usually learns a song by ear, and plays lead on his favorite tunes by Classic Rockers such as Cream, Deep Purple, Ronnie James Dio, and Black Sabbath.
He also creates his own original music.
With Tony's interest and dedication to music, maybe Robin Trower will be learning a tune from him some day.