Hearing loss disability not a barrier to teen's music aspirations

Despite hearing loss and a rare heart defect, 13-year-old Anastasia Mary Chieng has learnt to play the electone, drums and the violin and now performs at public events.
Despite hearing loss and a rare heart defect, 13-year-old Anastasia Mary Chieng has learnt to play the electone, drums and the violin and now performs at public events.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

SINGAPORE - A passionate Bon Jovi-style rocker at heart, Anastasia Mary Chieng bangs away at the drums, caresses the strings of the violin with her bow, and even plays the organ.

The 13-year-old, who has hearing loss in her right ear and a heart condition, is intent on living a fulfilled life.

"Even though I am disadvantaged, I am not allowing my disabilities to define who I am," said the aspiring drummer, violinist and electone player.

The St Anthony's Canossian Secondary School student is one of four recipients of the NatSteel-SPD Youth Aspiration Award yesterday at the Holiday Inn Atrium Hotel.

The award also went to Jurong Junior College's Chew Chee Siang, 17, Republic Polytechnic's Mr Muhammad Ariff Mohd Ilyas, 20, and Nanyang Technological University undergraduate Then An Zhi, 23.

Past recipients include paralympian and Straits Times Singaporean of the Year 2016 finalist Yip Pin Xiu.

Each recipient received $5,000, meant to encourage students with disabilities to pursue and develop their talents in the arts, sports or community service.

A further 95 students received the NatSteel-SPD Education Programme Bursary Award totalling $95,400. The bursary is awarded to students from low income families, who either have parents with disabilities or disabilities themselves.

Ms Chia Yong Yong, president of SPD, formerly known as the Society for the Physically Disabled, told the award winners that every child has the potential to fulfil their dreams.

"This is not about giving you an amount of money to do whatever you like, but it is about building your own futures," said Ms Chia, who is also a Nominated MP.

Minister of State for Education Dr Janil Puthucheary congratulated the recipients and thanked NatSteel, which had contributed nearly $700,000 to the bursary programme since 2009.

Anastasia, who was diagnosed with profound hearing loss in her right ear since birth, first picked up music at four and learnt the various instruments outside of school.

She also has a rare heart condition, known as transposition of the great arteries, in which her two main arteries are reversed. She had surgery as an infant and still goes for a yearly check-up.

Said her mother, Mrs Veronica Chieng, 50: "The various welfare organisations have helped us cope with the costs and have given my daughter a good life. I've always said that she is lucky to be born here."

Mrs Chieng said she intends to use the award money to pay for a new drum set, an amplifier and her daughter's drumming exam fees.