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Nothing is Impossible

Nothing is Impossible

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Published by: bvhtr on Mar 05, 2010
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By Thomas Herold in Manifesting Dreams on March 20th, 2007 /  No Comments
 Yew Choong Cheong, a West Virginia University student who plays and studies classical piano despite a loss of hearing, recently won the 2007 International Young SoloistsAward given by VSA arts.The international, nonprofit organization was founded in 1974 by Ambassador JeanKennedy Smith to create a society where all people with disabilities learn through, participate in and enjoy the arts.As one of four award recipients from around the world to receive this honor, Cheong will play at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., on March21. He will also receive a $5,000 scholarship to assist with his career and studies inmusic.Cheong, who is pursuing a doctorate in musical arts in the WVU Division of Music in theCollege of Creative Arts, studies under the tutelage of Professor Peter Amstutz. Heconsiders the selection – the first for a WVU student – a great honor.?This award is by far the biggest achievement I?ve ever had in my life,? Cheong said. ?Receiving this recognition certainly motivates me to keep doing the one thing I love themost, playing piano. I really wish to dedicate this award to everyone with disabilities. Nothing is impossible if they have the necessary passion and perseverance in pursuingtheir goals.?Cheong is also a graduate assistant and teaches applied piano to others while assistingwith tuning and maintaining the University?s piano inventory. At the Kennedy Center,
Cheong will perform ?Piano Variations? by Aaron Copland and Franz Liszt?s ?Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6.??It?s a joy to see Yew Choong do so well,? Professor Amstutz said. ?This is quite anaccomplishment, and it?s especially amazing with his specific circumstances and thechallenges he?s overcome. He?s a brilliant student — both academically and at the piano,and I?m very happy for him.?Cheong has a form of nerve deafness. He can read lips and carry on a spiritedconversation, but his hearing impairment is so severe that he cannot use a telephone. Herents a room from Ed Keller, a professor emeritus in the University?s Department of Biology.?The magnitude of Yew Choong winning this award is incredible,? said Keller, who iswell known for his life-long work to obtain funding and support for students withdisabilities.Cheong was born in 1978 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He started playing piano at the ageof six at the urging of his mother. When he was about eight years old, a viral infectiondamaged his left ear. Ever since, he has worn hearing aids.Despite his severe hearing loss, Cheong continued to study piano, working with P?ngTean Hwa, a professor at University College Sedaya International. P?ng also earned hisdoctorate of musical arts degree at WVU as a student of Amstutz.Although he admits initially disliking piano lessons as a child, Cheong remembers aspecial day when he was about 14 when he listened to Ludwig van Beethoven?s ?Bagatelle in E-flat.?I suddenly fell in love with the music for the first time,? Cheong said of that day. “Sincethen, I became very curious and obsessed with classical music.?Beethoven, who also suffered from hearing loss, is Cheong?s favorite composer.?I always feel a sense of kinship with Beethoven,? Cheong said. ?I admire his perseverance in doing what he really wanted. His music is not always about struggle, butit often speaks about a strong will to overcome any circumstance. Yet there is aninexplicable calmness and depth in his music. I always feel Beethoven telling me himself,?Accept your flaw. Know who you are.? ?In 2001 Cheong was awarded a full scholarship to WVU, followed by graduateassistantships, to continue his musical studies. Playing piano doesn?t come easy, saysCheong, who in recent years has experienced bouts of sudden hearing loss in both ears.He admits he has difficulty recognizing pitches of high frequency.

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