Javier Torres became a familiar face in the spotlight as he took the stage 10 times to showcase his skills. Whether he was stomping his feet in a patriotic dance routine, playing an electronic keyboard, performing as Harry in a musical version of "When Harry Met Sally" or sign singing, his showmanship captivated the audience.
Torres, a resident of the San Angelo State Supported Living Center, took part in the 42nd Annual SSLC Music Festival in Austin on Oct. 11. Residents from the 13 SSLCs participated in the three-day event, a culmination of their efforts to transform routines and props into inspiring presentations.
"These annual music festivals tie into many SSLC programs throughout each year that help our residents increase their quality-of-life skills, interdependence, relationship building, sense of community as well as increased cognitive, social and team work skills," said Paul Kraus, chaplain and music director of the Austin SSLC. "Sometimes it takes several years to reach their goals."
The festival included nearly 90 performances. Some acts featured a solo performer with music while others were elaborate group numbers that included props, large backdrops and video accompaniment.
Every song used in the performances referenced a mode of transportation, which connected with the festival's theme, "Crusin'."
Gina Dobberstein, music therapist and music director of the San Antonio SSLC, cheered on the performers from her front row seat. As an organizer of the event, she was happy to see it all come together with enthusiasm filling the room.
"All year long, residents have been talking about it," Dobberstein said. "It's so much more than a music competition. It's about sharing with other facilities and having a good time socializing, meeting new faces. This is truly about people expressing themselves. Music is a powerful medium for that."
The music festival took on a deeper meaning for Torres, who said it was more of a family outing for him. Torres said he grew up in the foster care system and never experienced a sense of family like he does with the residents at the San Angelo SSLC. He cheered on and high fived his fellow residents as they exited the stage after a group performance.
"I've learned how to do so much because I push myself to the limit," he said. "I just want people to do the same. Improve yourself by going forward. You can conquer anything if you just push yourself to the limit."