Jake Gluckman

Over the weekend, Jake Gluckman ’21 held a concert for autistic individuals and their families with an organization called Music for Autism in New York City.

The concert was based on Gluckman’s originally-composed musical “My World,” which was performed in the Lighten Theater in April. Gluckman wrote this musical by drawing from his experiences growing up having a brother with autism.

“There’s so much about representation in the arts and whose story should be told on stage,” said Gluckman. “More people are starting to become aware about autism, and it’s important to convey that these people have their own dreams and goals and that they’re attainable.”

Nine out of the musical’s 14 songs were performed at the concert, with bits of narration interspersed in between to explain the show’s themes to the audience.

The musical traces the story of Benji, a senior in high school with autism, who has to move to a new town. It explores his interaction with the people in his new school as he tries to adapt to his new life and figure out what to do after graduation.

Gluckman said he was inspired to write “My World” during his brother’s graduation speech, when his brother expressed his desire to be a marine biologist. Gluckman said that the family was surprised, since they had always assumed his brother’s love for fish was solely a hobby.

“That was the moment I realized I wanted to write about my brother,” said Gluckman. “He clearly has a story to tell, and there’s so much that he can offer the world — I don’t think he feels the empowerment.”

Gluckman has been writing songs since he was 12, but he didn’t connect his hobby with his love for musical theatre until he worked on this show. He composed his first song for “My World” during his sophomore year. He described his process as “throwing spaghetti at the wall,” playing piano notes at random in order to see what worked. The positive feedback he received encouraged him to write most of the musical during his junior year.

Gluckman said he worked closely with his friend Sammy Grob ’21, whom he described as a “confidant” during the process.

Grob, who acted as the music director for the concert in New York, said that he enjoyed collaborating on the project and commended “Jake’s openness to criticism and understanding.”

“It had heart, too, because it comes from a true story of his brother, but also because he writes from a point of emotional vulnerability,” Grob said.

Gluckman noted that since producing the musical, he wanted to expand the outreach of his show to impact a wider audience. This summer he found his first opportunity when his internship connected him with Music for Autism. The organization creates concerts for kids with autism and their families. Gluckman said the decision to collaborate for an interactive concert with the organization was a “no brainer” for him.

“Art can be such a source of joy, not only for the people making it, but also for the people seeing it,” Grob said. “What’s so great about the show is that it is simple and incredibly complex — you’ll sing a tune of the show and come away thinking about the more abstract, intellectual ideas.”

Gluckman hopes to record a cast album and tour in order to see how the musical resonates with different communities. He has toyed with the idea of licensing the show to allow high schoolers to perform it. He is taking this year off, partially to revisit and improve the show.

Gluckman said the show was particularly relevant at Yale because disability isn’t “talked about much on campus.”

“I love my brother so much, and I fully believe he can contribute something to the marine biology community,” said Gluckman. “But I still struggle to understand him, and my family and I are still struggling with his dream. I hope the show conveyed a lot of hope and optimism, but I also recognize the deep struggle that people with autism face — I just hope it starts conversations among people about autism and disability and family.”

Freya Savla | freya.savla@yale.edu

Alex Martin | alex.martin@yale.edu