Musicians helping young girl

WHEELING – Evet Sem, drummer for psychedelic jam band KR-3, first met 9-year-old Summer Toland and her mother, Christie, while performing at a music festival. They made a connection, and got to know each other over Facebook and more music fests. Sem learned that Summer was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, and though she did not possess a drum kit, she loved music and already knew she wanted to be a drummer.

Having been diagnosed with a similar condition himself, Evet decided a drum kit would be just the thing Summer needs.

“It turns out I have a lot in common with her, she already considers herself a drummer and had been wanting a drum set for about three years,” said Sem. “If I didn’t have drumming, I don’t know what I’d do,” he said, explaining why he felt a drum kit would benefit Summer.

After asking for Christie’s permission, Sem posted a call for help on his Facebook page to collect a starter drum kit for Summer, and was pleasantly surprised by the enthusiastic responses.

Gary Antol, an employee at Larry’s Music Center and guitarist for the band The Weedrags, also knows Christie Toland, and after learning of Sem’s campaign, he spoke to his employer, Larry Dukate, about donating. Dukate decided to give Summer an entire drum kit, which he presented to her at the store. KR-3 manager Ryan Neeley posted a link on the band’s website to, a fundraising website, and $110 was collected. Sem said this will likely be given to Summer to help pay for drumming lessons. Extra drum pieces that were collected will be put towards another project to be donated to a boy in Cameron, W. Va., who suffers from a condition similar to Asperger’s. Sem said he is not sure what’s next on the agenda, as he did not expect his campaign for Summer’s drum kit to be received as well as it has been.

“I didn’t expect this whole thing to blow up, but I see the good in it,” he commented. “Such a small gesture turned into so much generosity. I appreciate so much what they’ve done for her, ” said Christie.

According to WebMD, Asperger’s Syndrome is a pervasive developmental disorder. It delays development of many basic skills, most often the ability to socialize and communicate with others. Asperger’s is often characterized by repetitive, rigid behavior and motions, underdeveloped coordination, and a limited window of interests.

“Asperger’s is really challenging. It’s very hard to understand because in many situations everything is fine but just the smallest noise or smell can be bad. She doesn’t understand social cues, she takes everything literally. It causes a lot of problems with other little kids because she’s on a high verbal level but doesn’t understand other common sense things that other kids would understand, ” Christie said.

Neurologic music therapy (NMT) is a standardized treatment technique that has been growing in popularity for children with autism and related conditions. It’s considered a multi-sensory approach to engaging the brain, and can be used to provide structure in a child’s life. Music therapy has also been shown to improve communication and expression skills. Christie said that she takes Summer to see live music often, because it calms her down and helps with agitation. She works to use therapies alternative to medication, because the drugs used for children with Asperger’s and other autism spectrum disorders can have severe side effects.

Since the drum kit was donated, Summer has been watching YouTube tutorials and practicing patterns to learn drumming, and she’ll receive her first lesson courtesy of Evan Lintz, a member of the band Fletcher’s Grove, on Jan. 11.

“It’s been helping, when she gets frustrated she goes and plays the drums and it gets a lot of aggression out. I’m very surprised at how much it’s helping her. She’s also a ballerina, and the dancing along with the music has been helping me keep her off medication, ” Christie said. “We were kind of going through a rough time, and it’s given us a light at the end of the tunnel”.

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