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Wang Zi"an practices viola with his teacher Hou Donglei in Guangzhou, Guangdong province. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Persistence sees young musician land a place at prestigious UK school

Wang Zi"an, an 18-year-old violist who is visually impaired, is busy making language, living and academic preparations to study at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire in the United Kingdom.

The enrollment comes as a reward for Wang"s years of persistent pursuit of music as a profession with the support of his family.

"I was nervous and my hand was sweating holding my guide stick as I was preparing for a show," said Wang, recalling the moments before the confirmation of his acceptance on Dec 12.

"When the good news arrived, I became excited," he added. "Then I calmed down and started to think about what I needed to do to integrate into life there."

Wang, who likes TV and computer games, practices the viola three to four hours a day, memorizing professional terms and history of Western music in English. He also practices musical arrangements on his computer and doing household chores.

"I"m a bit afraid. It"s a challenge in a foreign place. I would like to go as early as possible to experience it, though," he said.

Wang lost his eyesight after being born prematurely. When he was 4 years old, his musical ability was suddenly revealed when he played the melody of a song on an electric piano.

Armed with a new piano, Wang embarked on his long musical journey. After primary school, he applied to an affiliated middle school of a conservatory in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, but failed to get in.

However, Hou Donglei, a viola teacher at the conservatory, offered to teach him when he was 13 after hearing Wang"s piano performance in the entrance test.

Wang has had to overcome a lot of difficulties. In the beginning, he could not keep the bow even, so his parents placed four cotton swabs near the bridge of the instrument to help him feel the angles.

The musician is good at memorizing scores but has yet to address the issue of reading those not available in Braille. And his body movements during performances are not as expressive as they could be.

He is, however, determined to follow a professional path and applied for a number of foreign music schools upon graduating from middle school.

"Wang is very talented. He has exceptional hearing, a special aptitude for the viola and a much better memory than many others," said Hou, director of the orchestral instruments department of the music school attached to Xinghai Conservatory of Music.

"In class, I teach him the notes, fingering and bowing, and analyze composition. He has an edge over his classmates. He can largely manage a piece after four to five sessions."

Wang"s enrollment at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, which is a faculty of Birmingham City University, is not based on compassion, said Liu Fei from the China office of the conservatory, which has offered Wang a half scholarship.

"He participated in the audition like other applicants across the country, without any change in the content and requirement in the test. His performance completely met our standards and exceeded the expectations privately set in our hearts," Liu said.

The boy"s father, Wang Xiaohong, said he plans to accompany his son to the UK for three months and then leave him to stand on his own two feet.

Determined to let his son follow a path different from those traditionally open to a visually impaired person, Wang"s father has devoted his time, energy, money and enthusiasm to his son"s development.

"If the teacher hears him play 10 or 20 times in class, I hear him play hundreds or thousands of times at home. I know it when he doesn"t do well," Wang Xiaohong said.

Over the years, he said he has not wavered in his support.

"Many parents cannot walk out of the darkness (of having such a child). Many fathers cannot bear the pressure and run away. I want to fulfill my commitment, so I will be his eyes," he said.

Sheng Wuhan contributed to this story.

 


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