Tony DeBlois – A Prodigious Musical Savant


Tony DeBlois – A Prodigious Musical Savant

By Darold Treffert, MD

Segment produced for Carte Blanche
Produced by Eugene Botha and Anna Teichert

Watch Video
Approx. 13 Minutes
Format: Flash Video

Go to the latest update on Tony

Tony DeBlois is a musical savant I first met in 1989 when he was awarded a summer scholarship at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. Tony so impressed the staff at Berklee that summer that he was admitted there as a full time student and graduated magna cum laude in 1996, a astriking achievement for someone both blind and autistic. Tony is a tremendous jazz musician and improvises freely, and impressively. He, and his mother Janice, were featured in a 1991 Today Show and also have been on CBS Sunday Morning. There have been many other frequent television and media appearances since that time. Tony is autistic and blind with striking musical ability, which, while including spectacular jazz ability, extends to many other musical styles ranging from country to classic. He plays 14 musical instruments, 12 of them proficiently. Like many other musical savants, his ability surfaced at an astounding level when his mother bought him a chord organ at a garage sale when Tony was 2 years old. His story, and that of his dedicated proud mother was told in a CBS Movie of the Week, Journey to the Heart, which was broadcast nationally on March 2, 1997. More information about Tony can be obtained at his Web site Tony has two CDs available through the address on his Web site.

Tony’s mother, Janice DeBlois, describes his remarkable story this way:

“Born weighing 1 lb. 3/4 oz. was only the first obstacle that Tony DeBlois had to overcome. This 29-year-old pianist from Randolph, MA is blind, autistic and has Savant Syndrome. He has been playing the piano since age 2. He was the subject of the 1997 CBS made for TV Movie of the week ‘Journey of the Heart,’ which was inspired by actual events in Tony’s life. Additionally, he has appeared on 2 Catholic Global Showcase Specials (2001), The Learning Channel’s ‘Uncommon Genius’, Strange Science ‘Unusual People’, and ‘Understanding the Mysteries of Memory’. He is the recipient of numerous awards, among them are Chou, Ta-Kuan Cultural and Educational Foundations Global ‘Love of Life Award’ (2002), the Faith and Family Foundation first Outstanding Achievement Award, the coveted Reynolds Society Achievement Award (1996), the Foundation for Exceptional Children’s prestigious ‘Yes, I can’ Award for 1993 and the Panasonic Sponsored, VSAarts Itzhak Perlman Award (1992). As Tony’s ‘Let me do it independently’ attitude inspires many people who meet him, his talents are being noticed internationally, hence his returning concerts to both Singapore and Taiwan and upcoming performances in Dublin and Limerick, Ireland. Stories about him have been broadcast on National Public Radio (NPR), Voice of America Radio and Talk America. Spots about him aired in documentaries in Rome, London, Japan and Australia. Tony is the inspiration for the book ‘Fred’s Prayer Machine’ (Ambassador Book 5/02) and he will be appearing in two Psychology textbooks referencing autism. All this fame has not daunted Tony’s excitement about learning. His studies at Perkins School for the Blind earned him a Certificate of Achievement but, his hard work at Berklee College of Music paid off; he graduated magna cum laude on Mother’s Day 1996.

When not on tour, Tony enjoys singing with St. Mary’s Choir, performing with his band ‘Goodnuf’ and spending time with his girlfriend. Besides piano, Tony enjoys playing the organ, harmonica, guitar, harpsichord, English handbells, violin, banjo, drums and trumpet, and is now learning saxophone, clarinet, ukulele, mandolin and flute. When not playing musical instruments, Tony enjoys swimming, exercise equipment, the computer, Mystery Tours and has just learned to ballroom dance. For Tony there are no ‘roadblocks’ but mere obstacles to be cast aside or skirted. His favorite phrase seems to be ‘I haven’t learned that yet.'”

Tony’s new, third CD, was recently released. It is titled “Beyond Words” and is an instumental jazz work in which Tony teams up with what the Boston Globe terms “Boston’s House Band” with Bo Winiker on trumpet and flugehorn, Tommy Petrakis on bass and Bill Winiker on drums. It can be obtained by contacting Janice DeBlois at or by ordering on-line at

Update – September 30, 2005

“Some Kind of Genius” — The Tony DeBlois Story

Some Kind of Genius — a book about “the extraordinary journey of musical savant Tony DeBlois” — will be released by Rodale Press on October 7. It is written by Janice DeBlois, Tony’s mother, and Antonia Felix.

The book is the Tony DeBlois story. Tony is a prodigious musical savant, particularly skilled in jazz and improvisation. He graduated with honors from the Berklee College of Music in Boston in 1996 which is an interesting story in itself. Tony plays 20 instruments and presently has six CD’s to his credit. The most recent CD has the same title as the book. A movie — Journey to the Heart — was broadcast as an CBS Movie of the Week in 1997. There is more information about Tony, his CDs and the book at

Dr. Treffert first met Tony in 1989 and has followed him since that time. This new book about Tony contains a chapter — “Islands of Genius: The Mystery of Savant Syndrome” — that describes the circumstances of that first meeting, surrounding Tony’s admission to Berklee. It also summarizes present-day information about musical savants including where Tony fits into that remarkable phenomenon, particularly the intriguing triad of visual impairment, mental disability and musical genius that re-occurs so rarely, but conspicuously, in savant syndrome through the past 100+ years.


Overall the book demonstrates dramatically what can happen with a focus on a-bility rather than dis-ability on the part of parents, teachers and others. It also provides a roadmap of love, and advocacy, for parents of children with disabilities through Janice DeBlois’s example. About the book Dr. Treffert states: “In my search to better understand savant syndrome, it is from persons like Tony and his mom that I’ve learned as much about matters of the heart as I have about the workings of the mind.” This book is about both.

For more information, please contact:
Darold A. Treffert, MD
St. Agnes Hospital, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin
Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry
University of Wisconsin Medical School, Madison
Personal Web site:


About dhavalrajgeera

Physician who is providing free service to the needy since 1971. Rajendra M. Trivedi, M.D. who is Yoga East Medical Advisor Graduated in 1968 from B. J. Medical College, Amadavad, India. Post Graduate training in Neurological Surgery from Charles University in Czechoslovakia. 1969 - 71. and received Czechoslovakian Government Scholarship. Completed training at the Cambridge Hospital and Harvard University in Psychiatry. Rajendra M. trivedi is an Attending Psychiatrist at Baldpate Hospital. He is the Medical Director of CCA and Pain Center in Stoneham, MA where he has been serving the community since 1971 as a Physician. OTHER AFFILIATIONS: Lifer of APA - American Psychiatrist Association Senior Physician and Volunteer with Massachusetts Medical Society and a Deligate of the Middlesex District. Patron member of AAPI - American Association of PHYSICIANS OF INDIA. LIFE MEMBER OF IMANE - Indian Medical Association of New England. Member of the Board of Advisors "SAHELI, Boston,MA. Dr. Trivedi is working closely with the Perkin's School for the Blind. Dr. Trivedi is a Life member and Honorary Volunteer for the Fund Raising Contact for North America of BPA - Blind People Association of Amadavad, India. Dr.Trivedi is the Medical Advisor for Yoga East since 1993. He is a Physician who started Health Screening and Consultation At Shri Dwarkami Clinic in Billerica, MA.

6 responses »

  1. Dear Tony and Janice,

    We were able to catch up with your proress since as a student of Perkin’s School,Watertown, MA.
    Last meeting at our home with family was a lots of fun.
    Janice update about family and your recent fracture of the leg.
    You will be back on your feet and visit us.
    Thanks to Dr.Darold A. Treffert and Wisconsin Medical Society to put this in Tusidal.
    We will send the same to our Blind People Association.
    With Love

    Dr.R.M. Trivedi
    Dr.G.R. Trivedi and The Trivedis

  2. A prodigious savant is someone whose skill level would qualify him or her as a prodigy, or exceptional talent, even in the absence of a cognitive disability. Prodigious savants are those individuals whose abilities would be considered phenomenal or genius even in a person without any limitations or special diagnosis of impairment. The most common trait of these prodigious savants is their seemingly limitless mnemonic skills, with many having eidetic or photographic memories. Indeed, prodigious savants are extremely rare, with fewer than one hundred noted in more than a century of literature on the subject. Darold Treffert, the leading researcher in the study of savant syndrome, estimates that fewer than fifty or so such individuals are believed to be alive in the world today. The website of the Wisconsin Medical Society lists 29 savant profiles.[11] Darold Treffert is past-president of the society. There are only about 100 recognized prodigious savants in the world.

    Alonzo Clemons, American clay sculptor.[13]
    Tony DeBlois, blind American musician.[14]
    Leslie Lemke, blind American musician.[8]
    Jonathan Lerman, American artist.[15]
    Thristan Mendoza, Filipino marimba prodigy.[16]
    Derek Paravicini, blind British musician.[17]
    Kim Peek
    Gilles Tréhin
    James Henry Pullen, gifted British carpenter.[18]
    Matt Savage, U.S. autistic jazz prodigy.[19]
    Henriett Seth-F., Hungarian autistic savant, poet, writer and artist.[20]
    Daniel Tammet, British high-functioning autistic savant (mathematical synesthaesia, language absorption, and memory).[21]
    Stephen Wiltshire, British architectural artist.[22]
    Richard Wawro, Scottish artist.

  3. We are proud of you Tony.

    Never miss Tony….

    He will be ion 2nd November at Kennedy Center, Washington D.C.
    We all Love you Tony.Drs.
    Trivedi and Family

    Rajendra Trivedi, M.D.
    CCA and Pain Center, Suite 3, 290 Main Street,
    Stoneham, MA 02180

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