Photography by Jeffery Salter



Music can be powerful. For Frank Martin Verdejo-Chica Jr., who has Tourette Syndrome, it’s more than powerful — it’s a lifeline.

F
rank Martin Verdejo-Chica Jr. is a singer with a story to tell. The 21-year-old from New York who now lives in greater Miami has Tourette Syndrome, a condition that caused him to convulse and shout so uncontrollably that he had to leave high school at age 15 and be home-schooled because he was disrupting his classes. Then he discovered something: When he was onstage, those “tics” virtually vanished. Verdejo-Chica Jr. had found his calling — and a confidence in singing. American Way sat down with the vocalist to learn more about his inspiring story.


“Tourette Syndrome has given me this determination to live each day to the maximum.”

AW: When did your symptoms first appear? 
FMV: When I was young; 7 or 8. This girl in a cartoon I watched would put her head all the way back, and I used to copy her. Before long, I couldn’t stop doing that. When I became 15 or 16, I started noticing I could not control it.

AW: Did other people notice it? 
FMV: When it got really bad, it was definitely noticeable. I had to leave school. I don’t have the barking tics today, but that does come out once in a blue moon. My neck tic is the worst of my life.

AW: How have other people reacted to seeing your tics?
FMV: Once, I went to a doctor’s office to get an MRI of the brain and I had to bark. One of the people waiting in the waiting room said, “Where’s the dog?” I did have moments where people teased me, but I didn’t even know who they were. I was at a Burger King and I had to scream; I went outside to scream, so no one could hear me.

AW: Have you always known you wanted to be a singer?
FMV: When I was diagnosed, I had to control these tics. I had to find another way. Running was one way. Every week I would run another mile. It helped me release my anxiety, my stress. My tics decreased. Then, I realized when I sing, I don’t tic at all. Music is magical. It can help people overcome things, and it definitely helped me with my tics. I wanted to be a chef prior to that. This changed my career.

AW: What inspired you to be so open with other people about your story?
FMV: I wanted to put my story out there to inspire other people who have Tourette’s. Thanks to Tourette’s, I feel like I have this determination and perseverance. Recently, I went to a Josh Groban concert. Out of nowhere, I said, “Josh Groban, I have something to tell you.” He let me sing with him. I sang for 5,000 people. Tourette Syndrome has given me this determination to live each day to the maximum. I took the risk and it paid off.

AW: Do you feel like, from your experience, there’s a lesson here for others? 
FMV: Don’t give up. Pick yourself off the ground and keep moving forward. You need to do something positive with it.

AW: What’s your plan for the future?
FMV: I want to be a Josh Groban-type singer. That’s my plan. I want to audition for a reality TV show and get exposure, to share the story of what I have been through to inspire others. I would also like to help with Tourette awareness.

If in-flight, tune to channel 11 to hear “Through the Storm” by Frank Martin Verdejo-Chica Jr.

To learn more about Tourette Syndrome, visit www.tsa-usa.org