Autistic Emirati teen aims to inspire others after winning scholarship to prestigious music college

Sara Al Hashimi has won a scholarship at Berklee College of Music, which has helped shape the talents of a host of global stars

DUBAI ,  UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , JULY 1 -2019 :- Sara Al Hashimi, student of KING’s School Al Barsha Dubai, has autism and has managed to win a scholarship to the music college at Berklee singing at the music room at the school campus in Dubai. ( Pawan Singh / The National ) For News. Story by Anam

An Emirati teenager diagnosed with autism at the age of three wants to inspire others to pursue their dreams after securing a place at one of the most prestigious music colleges in the world.

Sara Al Hashimi, a Year 13 pupil at King's School Al Barsha in Dubai, will swap the UAE for the US in August to take up a coveted scholarship at Berklee College of Music.

The 17-year-old has called on people to follow their passions as she gets set to continue her bid to turn a life-long love of music into a career when she moves to Boston.

Sara learned to play the piano and the guitar before trying her hand at the violin and viola, showing a talent for music at an early age.

"Music has always been a part of my life. My mother started playing the piano when she was four years old and I followed that," said Sara.

"Having autism does not affect my music because I always get lost in the music. When I am on stage and I am performing, I am almost unaware of my autism."

She will follow in famous footsteps when she starts her studies, with producer Quincy Jones, singer John Mayer and Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler among Berklee's notable alumni.

Being in illustrious company is nothing new for the talented teen, however.

She has recorded with Cat Stevens - also known as Yusuf Islam -  performed alongside the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the Welsh National Opera and played to audiences including Britain's Prince Charles and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.

The pupil said there are not many musicians who are on the autism spectrum and she is hopes to be a role model for those aspiring to follow in her path.

"I think it’s always something I have had to overcome and I want to show people that they can do it despite the fact that they have these special needs.

"You can achieve anything. Music is something everyone can love and it brings people together.

"I did two summer programmes at Berklee, which I really enjoyed, and wanted to attend the school. I went for an audition but was really stressed but had support from my family and the school."

She found out in December that she had received a scholarship for a four-year bachelors course.

"I am a little stressed because I have to do well in order to keep the scholarship. A lot of people have faith that I can do well but I have to believe in myself.

"I was really excited when I got into Berklee. It was my first choice and I am hoping to major in vocal performance.

"The people are the best part of Berklee as they are so open, welcoming and inclusive."

She wants to return to Dubai after her Stateside studies and hopes to keep on performing.

"Take up things you love and be passionate. Anyone can achieve anything they want to and no one can tell you otherwise," she said.

Sara's mother Tala Badri, is full of praise for her daughter.

“I am immensely proud of Sara and I have seen an incredible change in her confidence and in how she conducts herself.

"As a child, she would hate noise and she did not like being on stage. It is a huge accomplishment that she has gone from that to wanting a career in performance," she said.

Sara went through occupational therapy and speech therapy after her autism diagnosis but it was music therapy that helped her the most.

At the time, King's School Dubai was the only school to offer her a place because she had autism.

"She found something that she loves. She took to music and loved it and she sings all day every day," said Ms Badri.