Twelve-year-old blind and autistic YouTube singing sensation Christopher Duffley currently is in the studio prepping his new CD, a project of inspirational and patriotic songs. Duffley, who is garnering attention throughout the U.S. for his remarkable talent, is working with veteran producer Steven V. Taylor (Kirk Franklin, Natalie Grant, Michael W. Smith) on the recordings.
"I've been blessed to work with a number of extraordinary talents throughout my career, and Christopher Duffley now joins that list," says Taylor. "Christopher's gift extends beyond his voice. When listening to him sing, you're actually hearing his heart and that is what has been touching audiences around the country and, through YouTube, the world. We're excited to be in the studio working on a new project so Christopher can continue sharing the talent God gave him with others."
Christopher's new CD will be comprised of worship music, such as "Open the Eyes of My Heart," "Amazing Grace" and "I Can Only Imagine," and inspirational and patriotic songs, including "God Bless the USA" and "Lean on Me."
What makes the new project different from those of the multitude of other fresh-faced young singers is not Christopher's powerful voice or his remarkable perfect pitch, but Christopher himself.
Christopher entered this world with only a 50 percent chance of survival. Born prematurely at 26 weeks, he weighed just 1 lb., 12 oz. and tested positive for cocaine. Miraculously, he survived, but an eye condition, retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), a disease that affects the eyes of many premature babies, rendered him totally blind by the time he was 6 months old. Due to his birth parents' inability to care for him because of their drug dependency, Christopher was discharged from the hospital into foster care.
But Christopher's struggles were not the end of the story. When his biological aunt and her husband, Christine and Stephen Duffley, learned that Christopher was in foster care, they sought him out. Once they located the child, they brought him home to New Hampshire to be part of their family.
By the time he reached 5 years old, Christopher had been diagnosed with autism. Although he had rarely conversed until he reached the first grade, Christopher's adopted mother, Christine, had noticed his ability to make rhythmic noises and keep beat, and he had begun to pick out songs on the piano by age 3. Because of this natural affinity, music therapy was a logical choice to help Christopher learn to communicate, which Christine says he did more often by singing than talking. And, when he sang, it was in perfect pitch.
During first grade, Christopher's music teacher, recognizing the boy's innate talent, taught him "The Star Spangled Banner," a challenging song for even highly trained singers. Christopher quickly mastered the complex tune and was soon invited to sing it at local sporting events. Inspired by his life story, as well as his singing talent, New Hampshire's influential Union Leader newspaper wrote a front page article about Christopher, which triggered additional media attention from local and Boston-based TV and radio stations. The media attention culminated in an invitation for Christopher to sing the national anthem for the Boston Red Sox during a baseball game at Fenway Park, followed by an appearance at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway to sing the national anthem for a NASCAR race.
Then, a video of Christopher singing "Open The Eyes of My Heart" at the Capitol Center for the Performing Arts in Concord, N.H., went viral, garnering more than 2.4 million views on YouTube. News of his remarkable talent and story spread quickly.
Christopher traveled to Nashville to work on a music project with nine-time Dove Award-winning producer/songwriter/arranger Steven V. Taylor, debuting the self-titled EP in January 2013 before a packed house at the 8,000-member World Outreach Church in Murfreesboro, Tenn. His heartfelt performance compelled one listener to remark, "Here's a little boy who's blind and autistic, and yet he's touching the world. So, what's my excuse?"
"Although the circumstances have been difficult and we have had challenges, we have found much joy and so many more blessings," says Christine Duffley. "Family life is imperfect and messy, and it has been a journey of love, forgiveness and abandonment. Through it all, however, we are grateful that Christopher's biological parents chose life and, now, God is using this life to touch the world for Christ."