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The piano is predictable. If I hit the right key, it will play the same note every time, and if I play a song correctly, there will always be harmony. Life is unpredictable and always changing; thus, the piano is a logical safe haven. The piano is my happy place, be it the one in my home or the one in my church. Life will happen as it may, but the piano is always there for me.
Simple notes ring under my fingers before developing into a slow and more complex melody, which tells the story of two in love, struggling to not give up. This is “Falling Slowly,” my favorite song to play on the piano. The song crescendos with emotion as I pour myself into the music. I have played this song and others multiple times on the piano for over seven years.
Being a part of music in my church youth choir, recitals, or high school marching band, has taught me how to work with other people in a unified goal of either performing or sharing our faith. Musical group performance allows me the perspective of blending in, when I have spent much of my life standing out. What sets me apart is that I am deaf.
Being a deaf musician appears an oxymoron, yet Bach once said that being a musician “is nothing remarkable, […] all one has to do is hit the right notes at the right time and the instrument plays itself.” This quote is the same answer I often give people who ask how I can play music and be deaf. Without my devices, a hearing aid and a cochlear implant, I hear less than half of the notes on the piano. But still, I choose to play piano without my hearing devices because I sometimes prefer its natural sound. However, I find more than aesthetic pleasure in music.
My personal experience with the piano connects my passion for music on a global scale. While I struggle to identify my cultural association as either socially Deaf or Hearing, music allows me to be a part of both worlds. I fit in neither, as I hear very poorly, and I grew up orally instead of using sign language, but I have music tastes and experiences in common with billions of people. Music transcends cultural differences, color, race and ability. Because of music, I belong somewhere.
For my Girl Scout Gold Award, as well as my high school senior project, I have committed to taking my passion for music global; I want to disprove the stereotypes placed on the Deaf by engaging them in music. After observing and working with professional music therapists, I will host drum circles within the local Deaf community and then take my project to the Kakuyuni School for the Deaf in Kenya. My goal is to build these students’ confidence in their own abilities so that they can work to achieve whatever passion they have, beyond what is expected of them. I also hope this project will give me some insight into the field of music therapy and as a possible profession. I plan to pursue a degree in psychology and then a Master’s in Music Therapy so that I can spread my own sanctuary among others.
Music is how I express myself. For many other people as well, the music we choose to listen to puts into words what we ourselves are unable to. Music is diverse, each song unique, each genre different, and anyone can find joy in it. I know I have.
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