Schirling, a bass, was one of 29 young performers from the Great Neck Music Conservatory who performed at the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall Sunday. Although he has been singing all his life, he performed two Mozart opera pieces on the big stage after only eight months of formal voice lessons. A Woodhaven native who moved to Little Neck at age 5, Schirling was diagnosed with Tourette's Syndrome when he was 9. He said his accomplishment should show others that the disorder does not have to interfere with even the biggest dreams."I want to show people that I have Tourette's Syndrome and look, I'm up here at Carnegie Hall, and Tourette's Syndrome isn't stopping me from doing anything," he said in an interview in his Little Neck home Monday. Tourette's Syndrome is a neurological disorder that can cause involuntary movement and speech called tics. Schirling said that part of the reason he has no trouble performing is the disorder naturally eliminates his inhibition to speak."I choke up when I have to sing, and he's able to just go out there," said his mother, Rovena, who is on the board of the Bayside-based Tourette's Syndrome Association, the leading national organization for the disorder. Like Sunday, when he performed "La ci darem la mano" from "Don Giovanni" and "Non piu andrai" from the "Marriage of Figaro" in front of an audience of 250 at the Weill Recital Hall."Whenever I go on stage to perform, I never get nervous. Not once," Schirling said. "It's like the perfect outlet to let go of the Tourette's Syndrome."He has also had plenty of practice. Schirling sings in three choirs: every Sunday at St. Anastasia in Douglaston, on special occasions in the concert choir at St. Matthias in Ridgewood (the family's previous church), and every Wednesday morning at Mass at Cathedral Preparatory Seminary in Elmhurst, where he goes to school. His mother drops him off at 7 a.m. each day to practice."I grew up all around music," said Schirling, the youngest of three boys. My mother sings, my father sings, both my brothers sing, and I just kind of fell into it."Now a junior, Schirling is considering becoming a priest or a teacher or pursuing some kind of social service. But he said whatever path he chooses, music will be a part of it."I know for a fact that I'm not going to exclude it from my life," Schirling said. "I'm not going to leave that talent behind."Reach reporter John Tozzi by e-mail at news@times
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