Alex Dell'Atti, 18, of Great Falls and a senior at Langley High School, hurried onto the gazebo performance area at the Labor Day evening Concerts on the Green. Organizers reported it was the largest turnout of the season. Like his idol, Elvis Presley, who reportedly was a shy young man at 18, Alex is generally on the quiet side, but can be outgoing depending on the setting.
One of Hello Cleveland's singers, John Johnson, welcomed Alex to share his passion with the people of Great Falls and join the local rock 'n' roll band on stage for a spotlight performance. Johnson handed him the mic. At first, Alex's voice was quiet. He thanked his parents for their support and Hello Cleveland for the opportunity.
Then Alex became a powerhouse of rock 'n' roll. He demonstrated top form singing Presley's "Burning Love," written by Dennis Linde originally released by Arthur Alexander in 1972. Alex's vocals grabbed the audience's attention.
"His vocals, his sharp dance moves, his outfit right down to the blue suede shoes — were all spot on," said Craig Simpson, drummer with Hello Cleveland. "He even managed to get the audience singing along."
Alex Dell'Atti crooned the upbeat lyrics with hip gyrations. Alex reshaped the song ever so slightly, injecting his character and emitting pure joy that resonated in the vocals.
"The whole band was blown away by his performance; definitely the highlight of our set … Alex absolutely nailed it," said Simpson the day after the performance.
Even though fans wanted more, like Elvis, there was no encore. "Elvis has left the building."
Running back through the applauding crowd, Alex buzzed with excitement. Family and friends swarmed him, slapping high fives, bumping elbows, and giving hugs. Answering if he considered himself the second king of rock 'n' roll, Alex said, "Actually, yes."
Alex said what made him most happy was that the crowd appreciated him for his talent. "They didn't look at my disability. I have this syndrome called Sifrim Hitz Weiss that affects my genetics," Alex said. "I love when the crowd doesn't see my syndrome. They just notice my actual performance."
Alex said that he would like more bands to be inclusive. "Let people like me who have disabilities sing along with them.”
Alex shared a couple of thoughts on inclusion. The first step toward facilitating inclusion ought to be education. "We should teach band members and singers about autism, Down Syndrome, and other types of syndromes, so they know, and they can let others [with disabilities] perform," Alex said. Other plans for greater inclusion are apparently forthcoming, according to Alex.