Tom Wiles is a freelance drummer who has been using support from Life Choices to develop his drumming business, set up a new website and prepare for a gig at Ronnie Scott's jazz club in London. 

Tom has invested in a new drum kit to support his growing role as a professional freelance drummer. In this video, from his You Tube channel, he plays along to a track from one of his musical heroes, Miles Davis. Though he plays in a number of bands and orchestras, Tom's musical training and first love is jazz music.

Through Life Choices, Tom has been working with Martin (Life Choices Associate Project Lead) on developing business and social media skills - an important part of being a successful musician.  Tom says, "I'm playing in a couple of bands now: these new drums sound great and will make a big difference to my playing."

Next up for Tom is a gig at the legendary Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in London where he will play as a session musician with the Andy Davies quartet. The gig is on Wednesday 29th May, 9.30-11pm in the upstairs bar. Tickets are £8 on the door. 

"I am really looking forward to playing at Ronnie Scott’s later this month. I will be playing with a quartet run by Andy Davies (trumpet) with piano/guitar, double bass and drums. The music played will be a mixture of swing styles including Bebop and straight ahead jazz. I am excited to have the chance to perform at such an iconic venue." - Tom      

What is clear from this story is that Tom is a talented drummer, pursuing and achieving his dreams.  What isn't obvious from Tom's story is that he has autism. And that's just the way Tom wants it.

"Hopefully my drumming and music can speak for itself and people can just respect me for that.  Then I don’t need to prove myself." -Tom

For Tom, his diagnosis of an Autistic Spectrum Condition is secondary to his passion, talents and personality, yet in the past, people have treated him differently when they have become aware of his autism.

"If people know that I have autism, I find that some people talk down to me ...  I find in life that sometimes if people notice that you’re a bit different they seem to latch on to that" - Tom

At bemix we believe that the first things we should see in a person are their humanity, qualities, abilities and potential. Understanding any impairment they may have is very important, but secondary. We have been reflecting on this recently as we have linked into the wider Disability Rights Movement when developing and sponsoring a new Valuing Disability in Business Award for the KEiBAs (Kent Excellence in Business Awards).

In bemix, we have always taken a "People First" stance, focusing on the individual rather than their diagnosis - a perspective important to Tom and many other people within bemix. For example, we might describe someone as a person with a learning difficulty or autism, rather than a learning disabled adult.  However, many disabled people are choosing to identify as disabled, not because they feel limited by their impairment or condition, but because they experience being restricted and disabled by society's lack of opportunity and inclusion.  Along with this movement, we work hard to change attitudes to ensure that society is truly inclusive and everyone had the opportunity to be seen, be heard and belong. 

As we continually reflect on the language we use and the power it holds for influencing the world around us, we have been talking with people across bemix about the words we use to talk about what we do.  As specialists in autism, Life Choices is a great project to lead on discussing the language we use when we talk about autism.

Tom and Martin have recently launched a new blog exploring the way we talk about autism and what that means for individuals involved in Life Choices. Read their interview and follow the blog here.

Want to find out about the drum tutoring Tom offers, or hire him for a gig?