American Idol star to share personal story of abilities and music at FSU appearance

James Durbin
James Durbin

Florida State University will host James Durbin, an internationally known vocalist, guitarist and lead singer for the heavy metal band Quiet Riot, to discuss what it is like to have unique abilities and differences.

A musician with autism and Tourette syndrome, Durbin is an advocate for inclusion, and he aims to give students a new perspective on facing challenges. The event will coincide with National Disability Employment Awareness Month, observed each October to celebrate the contributions of workers with disabilities and educate about the value of a workforce inclusive of their skills and talents.

Durbin’s program will be a two-part event Thursday, Oct. 26, at the FSU College of Medicine Durell Peaden Auditorium. James’ motivational talk, “Conversation with James Durbin: Ability and Music,” will take place from 5 to 6 p.m., followed by the “Meet James Durbin” reception from 6 to 7 p.m.

The event is free and open to the public, but reservations must be made in advance through Eventbrite. Attendees will have an opportunity to enter a drawing for a new Gibson Les Paul Studio 2016 T Pelham Blue guitar, signed by James Durbin and donated by the Gibson Foundation.

The event was organized by FSU student disability advocates John Wilcox and Madison Scarcella and Student Government Vice President Stacey Pierre as a part of the “University of Choice” initiative that promotes diversity and inclusion at FSU. Partners of the initiative include VSA Florida, the FSU Center for Autism and Related Disabilities and FSU Autism Institute.

VSA Florida received a National Endowment for the Arts Challenge America Grant to host Durbin. As the state agency on arts and disability, VSA Florida provides and supports learning through the arts. VSA Florida’s vision is to create a world in which the arts are universally accessible.

“James Durbin is an exciting ‘change agent’ for persons with disabilities because he has demonstrated that with passion, determination and persistence, the future has unlimited possibilities,” said JR Harding, an instructional specialist in the Office of the Provost who coordinates the University of Choice initiative. “Individuals like James are serving as trailblazers by removing barriers, demonstrating our ability and advancing inclusion for people with disabilities so they can follow their dreams.”

Durbin gained fame as an American Idol finalist in 2011. That same year, he starred in the PBS documentary, “Different is the New Normal.”

Since then, Durbin has worked with musicians such as Stevie Wonder and Sheryl Crow, appeared on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and toured across the globe. His latest album, “Riot on Sunset,” debuted in the summer of 2016, and in March, Quiet Riot announced their plans to release an album in 2017.

The event will be livestreamed at!/faastInc/.