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Rockford musician writes song to support brother and Down Syndrome community

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ROCKFORD (WREX) — John Paul Von Arx found a passion for music when he was a young kid growing up in Rockford.

He looks back to taking guitar lessons at Guzzardo Music Performance on Charles Street to being what sparked him to pursue music as a career.

"I was always liked playing music. I always played guitar," Von Arx said.

"It's been a process to get to doing this full time. It's definitely like anything else in life. Just learning how to do it. Learning what it's actually like on the ground. It's not as glamorous as you'd think but it's incredibly rewarding."

Now based in Steubenville, Ohio, JP wants to use his music to convey a deeper meeting.

He writes and performs about things that have happened in his life in hopes of sharing his perspective with his audience.

"I love to be able to write music about things that really matter. I don't want to write songs like they're in a template just to conform to stereotypes in the genre, Von Arx said.

"I definitely want to play music that adds a new perspective to people's lives and hopefully inspires them in some way."

The one thing in JP's life that rivals his love for music is his family.

Of nine kids in the house, JP is the second oldest.

One thing his family remembers about him growing up was he was always going to make his presence known.

"John was a force to be reckoned with. He always has been and always will be the biggest disruption in our household," JP's sister Binka Von Arx said.

"Now he's turned into probably the most charming kid in the family."

The youngest of the Von Arx clan is Sam.

Sam is 12 years old and is the inspiration for JP's latest song called "He's Different."

"I'm thankful he's different than I am because he's so peaceful. He's so free. He doesn't have some hidden motives. He's not trying to use people for things," JP said.

Sam has Down Syndrome.

A difference in him JP wants the entire world to accept.

It was something that he himself took a long time to understand.

"Before he was born, before he was my brother, I had limited reactions with people with special needs," JP said.

"I think just through ignorance, no fault of my own, no one every taught me how to interact with people with special needs and I didn't know how to treat them. I just didn't know what to do."

It took the entire Von Arx family time to fully comprehend Sam's condition.

Today, Down Syndrome is just a part of who he is, not what defines him.

According to the National Down Syndrome Society, one in every 700 babies in the United States is born with Down syndrome which equates to roughly 6,000 each year.

"He's Different" is JP's way of not only expressing the love he has for his brother but a call for support for the entire Down Syndrome community.

"Next week Fox and Friends in New York City will be featuring Sam and I live on Saturday which is World Down Syndrome Day so we're really excited about that," JP said.

The Von Arx's believe showing people Sam will open people's eyes to accept everyone for who they are.

"The world needs to know how absolutely incredible individuals with Down Syndrome are," Binka Von Arx said.

"Everyday, Sam brings a smile to our face. He reminds us what is important and what's not. He keeps us grounded that way. He's our role model. He really is.

JP planned on unveiling the music video for the song "He's Different" last weekend for his hometown.

Given the current restrictions in place with concerns of COVID-19, JP will reschedule the showing for later this year at the Nordlof Center.

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Evan Leake

Evan Leake anchors for 13 News Today and 13 News at Noon. Evan grew up in Darien, Illinois, a south-west suburb of Chicago. He came to WREX in 2017 and worked his way to the anchor desk in May of 2019. He coordinates both the Teacher of the Week and Inspiring 815 series for 13 News. You can connect with Evan at or Evan Leake on Facebook.

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