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Musician/Songwriter Brian MacDonald

Musician/Songwriter Brian MacDonald

Brian McdonaldBrian, 19, created a music video that epitomizes the awe in autism. He used his gift of music to help his sister, Claire, who has autism, to move through the phases of her day. The song, and the video have been a tremendous inspiration for her. 

Inspired one morning by Claire’s happy mood while he was riding in the car with her, Brian spontaneously broke out with a simple chorus, singing, “Claire Mac is gonna have a great day!” The refrain was catchy, and understanding that it was about her, Claire liked it immediately. She didn’t realize then, of course, that it would eventually develop into a motivational video in which she is truly the star.

“I’ve been inspired by my love for Claire and my desire for her to succeed in her everyday life, even though her idea of ‘success’ is nothing like ours. Maybe in some ways we should look at success in the way Claire does.”  -Brian MacDonald

A few weeks later, Brian and his other sisters were waiting to take Claire to one of her favorite activities, but saw that she was having trouble transitioning between the tasks in her daily routine. Brian remembered the little tune he’d sung for her and pulled out his mandolin. As he sang and played, it was obvious that Claire was enjoying it — and sure enough, it helped her get moving.

Soon afterward, Brian’s friend Alex Forsythe, also a musician, suggested that the two of them collaborate on a music video and enter the composition in an online inspirational video contest. From the start, Brian and Alex wanted Claire to be a part of the video, but her unpredictable nature made it hard to know if she’d go along with it. In the end, Claire did indeed appear briefly, even singing along quietly.

When the video was completed, Claire watched it over and over. “A lot of the time Claire just thinks it funny that there’s a song about her. She always laughs to herself and sings when she hears it. It would be my hope that it motivates her to have great days, and sometimes it does work. The uncertainty makes me realize that I cannot be in control of anything when it comes to ‘Claire Bear,’ because I will never really understand autism and I can never really predict what will happen,” said Brian.

Brian and Alex entered the YouTube Inspirational Video Contest in 2011, and won by receiving the most votes from listeners. Although it earned them a small cash prize, Brian and Alex agreed that their greatest reward was the public’s encouraging response to the video. Brian comments, “Kids with disabilities can teach us so many things if we would only pay attention and see the value in them.”

Now at college studying music in Tennessee, Brian continues to work on other music projects and, while nothing is planned at this point, says he wouldn’t be surprised if he collaborated on another project with Alex, who is attending college in California.

“She brings out the best in everyone around her…”

For her part, although she doesn’t fully understand the concept of “away at college,” Claire misses her brother. The two keep in touch frequently on the phone and via Skype.

Since he’s been away, Brian says he’s noticed Claire’s mark on his personality in so many ways: “She has shaped who I am so much, and she is such an important part of my story. Claire is the perfect example of living a life of sharing what she has and not asking for anything in return. Whether it’s hug or a compliment or a smile, Claire is always there for you. She brings out the best in everyone around her by simply being herself. It’s amazing how that works.”