Stories from the brainreels guest Derek Amato–Musical genius after TBI

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Derek Amato’s name is really getting around. And for good reason. He’s a musical genius. The thing about Derek is he wasn’t a musician until a mild TBI seven years ago. A few days later, he saw music as shapes, and simply sat down at a friend’s piano and unleashed rich, gorgeous improvisational music.

There are tons of interviews and clips you can find about Derek online and on TV. You can hear the story of his brain injury and even look at his brain scans. You’ll hear him play music and talk about the true gift of his musical abilities and the downside to his injury: headaches and other symptoms a lot of us share. But you know what you don’t get in these interviews? Very much Derek.

As you might have figured by now, I’m not a big fan of how the media sensationalizes brain injury and disability. Sharing our stories is important. But when the whole story is about the brain injury and what it does to us as individuals, they’re missing a lot of big things.

The media is missing attention on how communication breaks down from both sides (not just because of the impaired person’s language disorder), isolation is common (not just because of the impaired person’s social skills), poverty is very frequent (not just because the impaired person wants to skip work), stigma and lack of opportunities are rampant, and all types of people medicalize us and even refer to us as “TBI patients” in non-medical settings.

And you know what was missing from the above paragraph? Any other part of a person: dreams, passions, hopes, hobbies, relationships, interests, personal opinions about their interactions in the world.

So if you like the gory stories, be prepared! In my interview, we kind of don’t talk at all about how Derek got his brain injury. Instead, we talk about medical and disability labels, community, love, trust, faith, money, family, and charitable activism.

Please visit the following sites for information and clips of interviews and music.

  1. Derek’s Homepage at Hit the “Media” tab to get to lots of interviews.

  2. Derek’s book, “My Beautiful Disaster” for sale at

And tune in Friday, February 7th at 1:00 pm Pacific time or anytime after that.

Click here for an accessible transcript of podcast episode #016.