Therapy team takes patient on a trip to Indy music studio

Patient Stories |


Sebastian Perez Cerezo cerebral palsy

This determined 14-year-old practices his wheelchair skills while feeding his passion for music production.

By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior writer,

Sebastian Perez Cerezo maneuvered his wheelchair up and over curbs, across rough parking lots and around tight corners during a field trip Tuesday morning away from Riley Hospital for Children.

All of it under the watchful eyes of recreation therapists Lauren Faith and Jaye Hajduk and occupational therapist Lesly Kolby, who traveled with Sebastian on this outing.

Sebastian Perez Cerezo cerebral palsy

The 14-year-old, who has cerebral palsy, has been on the inpatient rehab unit at Riley for a couple of weeks after surgery, regaining his strength before his discharge next week.

He used all of his skills and strength this week, while also showing his heart and ear for music, during a visit to Postal Recording, a 10-year-old music studio housed in a very old post office just west of Downtown Indianapolis.

“Oh wow,” the teen exclaimed repeatedly as he entered each new space in the studio, fascinated by the variety of instruments, the microphones, the soundproof booths and the control room.

Sebastian Perez Cerezo cerebral palsy

Sebastian, accompanied by his dad, Juan Perez, and the Riley therapy team, has been in love with music since he was about 9 years old, playing piano for five years before pivoting to create his own tracks on a keyboard and uploading tunes to YouTube.

He listened intently as studio manager Sarah Grain shared the story behind the studio and its founders, while also explaining the technology involved in laying down tracks, isolating instrumental sounds and engineering the final product.

Sebastian Perez Cerezo cerebral palsy

As co-founder Tyler Watkins worked a mammoth control board, Sebastian peppered him with questions about organizing the sounds into a finished piece.

Faith, who set up the visit to the studio, was gratified to see Sebastian wrapped up in the moment.

“You can see the joy on his face,” she said. “His eyes just light up.”

Field trips like this are a “practice run” for patients to see what barriers there are when they are outside the hospital, she said. Sebastian has used a wheelchair for years, but he was weak after surgery and still needs to learn some advanced skills.

Practicing “community-level mobility” while doing an activity patients enjoy is key. While other patients have visited the library, the Indianapolis Zoo, the Children’s Museum and other places around town, Sebastian has a keen interest in music production, so Faith researched studios in town that might be able to help.

For Grain, the studio manager, it’s an opportunity to showcase the Postal Recording space and connect with the community.

“I started here as an artist, fell in love with the space and saw what they were doing for the music community here in Indianapolis,” she said. “We love bringing kids in here.”

That’s because passion often starts young, and it needs to be cultivated, she said.

“One of our owners started getting into recording when he was 12 or 14. We know it’s little seeds like this – knowing someone just like them started out with a passion when they were young.”

Sebastian Perez Cerezo cerebral palsy

For Sebastian, it’s just what the doctor ordered.

“I can see myself making music at a place like this,” he said.

And that’s the point, Faith explained.

“If he can see himself in this space, it makes it more feasible for the future. It’s about visualization.”

Navigating the studio’s narrow hallways and executing difficult turns in tight spaces while in a wheelchair were tricky maneuvers, but Sebastian wanted to see everything.

And Grain was happy to give him the grand tour, encouraging the teen to check out the instruments and the gear in every space.

Sebastian Perez Cerezo cerebral palsy

At the end of the visit, Sebastian rolled up to a piano and played a dark melody he’d been working on, an influence from the horror films he and his mom like to watch.

A “10 out of 10” experience, he told the team on the Riley bus as they left the studio in the pouring rain.

But he’s already thinking bigger.

“I’m probably gonna be in LA someday, directing movies and producing music.”

Photos by Mike Dickbernd, IU Health visual journalist,