Asperger’s teenager and bandmates to play book awards

Ruairidh Saunders, John Cashman, Andy Blair and Andy MacDowell
Ruairidh Saunders, John Cashman, Andy Blair and Andy MacDowell
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A teenager with Asperger’s is to have his dreams come true when he performs in front of hundreds of people at one of the Capital’s best-known venues.

Ruairidh Saunders, 19, from Morningside, will take to the stage at the Royal Lyceum Theatre with his three bandmates after the pop/rock group were recommended for the honour by Idlewild guitarist Rod Jones.

Idlewild's Rod Jones

Idlewild's Rod Jones

The concert forms part of the Scottish Children’s Book Awards on February 23.

Ruairidh, who has Asperger’s syndrome, said: “I love playing music because it’s one of the very few things I’ve ever been good at.”

The drummer will be joined on stage by Andy MacDowell, 20, from Bathgate, Andy Blair, 20, from Bo’ness, and John Cashman, 20, also from Morningside, who are music students at Stevenson College.

They were selected to represent Stevenson after the Scottish Book Trust approached the college looking for young musicians to perform at the event.

Musician in residence at the college, Rod Jones, recommended the band, who formed just four weeks ago and have named themselves Box of Tricks. This will be their first gig as a group.

But talented Ruairidh has faced more of a struggle than most to play on the stage.

Ruairidh was born with Asperger’s syndrome, which was not diagnosed until around the age of seven, and went through a difficult time at Boroughmuir High School, where he failed several of his exams.

After leaving school in the middle of fifth year, Ruairidh – who is also a member of an Edinburgh blues band – joined Stevenson College as a Highers student in 2009 before continuing his studies in music. He has been playing the drums for almost 13 years.

He said: “Playing at the Lyceum is a very big opportunity for us. It’s a great opportunity to play to a more unique audience.

“When I started learning the drums, I never looked back and having Asperger’s has actually helped me harness my creativity as I grow older.”

Ruairidh, who dreams of playing professionally, added: “We have been asked to play music to the theme of magic. We have made original material – short jingles – that last as long as the winners will take to get their awards.”

Bandmate John said: “I’m a bit nervous, but this is a huge opportunity.”

Head of music at Stevenson, Hilary Saunders, added: “We are delighted they will have the chance to perform on such a prestigious stage.”