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WLHS junior donates rare talents to 'Rare Trait'

Julien Comardelle recorded an album to raise funds for Rare Trait Hope Fund

TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Julien Comardelle has been playing classical piano for 10 years, and decided last year to make an album to raise money for the Rare Trait Hope Fund - which is run by close family friend Julia Taravella.To release a full-length album at the age of 16 would usually mark an important first step in a long musical career.

Yet for Julien Comardelle, a junior at West Linn High School, his new album called “Rare Trait” is less a starting line and more what he terms “an apex.”

A classically trained pianist with 10 years of experience, Comardelle recorded the album during his sophomore year as something of a closing act to his musical life, before moving on to focus on academics and other interests.

But it was far from a vanity project. In fact, the whole idea was to raise money for the Rare Trait Hope Fund — a cause near and dear to Comardelle’s heart.

The Rare Trait Hope Fund is led by Executive Director Julia Taravella, a close family friend of Comardelle’s. As she put it in an email, “It is a project started by several families with a dream to find a cure for our children afflicted by the rare genetic disease called aspartylglucosaminuria (AGU).”

AGU leaves the body without a crucial lysosomal enzyme, causing language and learning problems as well as physical impediments. All proceeds from Comardelle’s album will go to Rare Trait, which is working not only to help cure the disease but also to raise awareness.

“It’s more for research and especially awareness, because the disease is very rarely diagnosed,” Comardelle said. “A lot of mental delays will be chalked up to autism or something else. The child gets progressively worse and it’s only until a few years later that they figure it out.”

Added Taravella: “There are about 7,000 rare diseases affecting 10 percent of the world population. The disturbing fact is that only 350 of those diseases have treatments due to lack of funding and awareness.”

The idea for the album came during a routine discussion between Comardelle and Taravella.

“We were just talking one day,” he said. “And we were saying, ‘I’ve never really recorded a CD before, and it’s one of my biggest skills.’ Why not try it?”

And so as he participated in different classical music competitions, Comardelle began a new routine of heading to the recording studio the day after the competition.

“The competition stuff was never really recorded,” Comardelle said. “So what I would do is practice it, go to the competition and the next day I would go to a recording studio and play it right there.

“It’s all original, there’s not really any retakes. We all got it on the first try.”

After spending about a year working on the album, Comardelle finally released it in December.

“It’s kind of like my apex — my chosen apex,” he said. “I’ve been playing music for a long time. I’m taking four AP classes this year, trying to push the academic stuff. I’ll still be playing piano every so often.”

Most importantly, Comardelle knows that every dollar raised brings Rare Trait that much closer to finding a cure.

“Julien’s project helps make our hope a reality for our children,” Taravella said.

Buy the album or donate

“Rare Trait” is

available for

a $20 donation at raretrait.com/cd. You may also donate at raretrait.com/donate.

Patrick Malee can be reached at 503-636-1281 Ext. 106 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..