He will rock you! Alfie makes a grand entrance in Birmingham

Musical Sutton Coldfield school boy Alfie Bennett has been a big hit at Birmingham’s New Street Station this week, showing the world that he is not defined by his autism.

A video of the gifted 12-year-old’s show-stopping piano performance of Queen’s iconic Bohemian Rhapsody – which went viral – captured the moment Alfie’s talents first wowed shoppers and commuters, made even more remarkable by the fact that the John Willmott School student struggles with large crowds and noises.

Alfie’s performance impressed officials at the station so much, that the young VIP was invited back yesterday (8 September) to entertain officers from British Transport Police, followed by a tour of the station with his family. This time round the gifted pianist treated audiences to Queen’s  ‘Somebody to Love’ and his personal favourite, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, back by popular demand.

“I feel really astounded about the reaction – I’m speechless,” said Alfie. “I was very excited to play the baby grand piano at the station because I’ve always wanted to play one and they are nice to play.”

Alfie plays in Grand Central

Alfie is “happily surprised” by the interest in his performances. He added: “I wasn’t nervous as I didn’t notice how many people had stopped to watch – and playing music doesn’t make me nervous.”

Alfie’s mother, Kayley Bennett said: “We’ve been overwhelmed by the public response to Alfie. The reception has been incredible and everybody has been so generous and so supportive. Thanks for giving Alfie the experience of a lifetime. We are so proud of him!”

The story began when Alfie and his mother were on their way to London on the train from New Street to see the School of Rock Musical – when the young performer spotted the baby grand piano and instinctively started playing.

Mrs Bennett said: “He played a couple of classical songs and a few people stopped him as he walked away to shake his hand and comment to say he made their morning. We recorded a video of Bohemian Rhapsody – He loved playing it and he even made us miss our next train! Alfie says that the piece was quite tricky to learn, but as it’s one of his favourite ever songs he was determined to master it! He has only ever performed in school before now. 

“He didn’t notice people were stopping to watch him, but he just loves to play piano wherever it is and he will play no matter who or how many people are there – he goes to a different place when he’s sat with a piano and he seems so happy and content. People were so lovely and shaking his hand and saying how brilliant he is and that he should enter ‘Britain’s Got Talent’!”

Alfie is a year 8 student at Sutton Coldfield’s John Willmott School, part of the respected Arthur Terry Learning Partnership. He regularly entertains classmates during lunchtime by performing on a piano in the dining hall – and headteacher Tracey Peters is among his many fans.

“He didn’t notice people were stopping to watch him, but he just loves to play piano wherever it is and he will play no matter who or how many people are there – he goes to a different place when he’s sat with a piano and he seems so happy and content. People were so lovely and shaking his hand and saying how brilliant he is and that he should enter ‘Britain’s Got Talent’!”

She said: “Alfie is a star! He is so naturally talented and it makes our day to hear him play. His music brings people together and creates a lovely atmosphere for everybody. He is a real credit to his parents and to John Willmott. We can all learn from Alfie and his determination and dedication – he is poised for a bright future!”

Alfie, who is working towards a grade 5 in piano first started to teach himself the instrument just three years ago. His mother said:

“Right away we knew he had a talent as he would pick up songs very quickly. He has already achieved distinction in all his grades. His teacher is amazing and says that Alfie is an exceptional pianist who plays like someone who has been playing for a lot longer than three years! Alfie is also fantastic on guitar and is hopefully going to take his grade 3 guitar exam before the end of this year.”

Alfie was diagnosed with autism at the age of nine and struggles mainly socially and sensory. Mrs Bennett said:

“Performing music helps Alfie’s autism and when he plays music we know he is happy.  It gives Alfie something he can channel all of his determination and is always working on a new song to master. He would not be the same boy without music it’s his life!

“Alfie is the most kind and gentle boy you could meet. He is very unassuming and doesn’t quite realise he has this amazing talent and never knows how to respond when he receives a compliment! We are all so proud of Alfie and the way he handles himself. His determination is amazing to witness – he never gives up when others might and he always pushes himself and sets his bar high in all aspects of his life. I have no doubt that he will take his talent all the way to the top.”

Alfie Bennett with his award.
Alfie Bennett with his award.

Alfie’s contribution to school life was recognised at this year’s ATLP Student Awards ceremony.  Staff at the school are incredibly proud of his achievements.

Mrs Bennett said: “Alfie enjoys learning at school and particularly loves Music and French. Part of the reason he enjoys school is because he has so much support off the SEN (Special Educational Needs) team, particularly Mrs Allen. John Willmott School have supported Alfie very well. The SEN team are tremendous and he has two teaching assistants who support him in all of his lessons where needed – his form teacher Mrs Hawker is also fabulous with him. Mrs Peters supports Alfie as well and encourages him to keep playing his music as she knows it’s important to Alfie.”

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