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Blind teen violinist commutes 12 hours for music lessons

/ 06:28 PM January 31, 2018

While others would look at blindness as a disability if not a curse, for 17-year-old Ding Yijie from southern China, blindness only meant looking for a creative alternative in learning music apart from reading a music sheet.

Yijie’s dream is honest in its boldness: once she finishes her studies in the Academy for Performing Arts in Hong Kong, she plans to attend the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, and one day, perform in Carnegie Hall in New York.

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It sounds ambitious enough, but her journey comes absent of the formulaic tropes and linear trajectory so often seen in feel-good Hollywood movies; Yijie has a long way to go. Her journey to the Academy for Performing Arts for her violin lessons, for one, already takes 12 hours back and forth without traffic, according to a report by the South China Morning Post in Jan. 17. Once, it took Yijie and her mother, Wang Chunyuan, 17 hours.

It starts with a bus from Foshan to the border crossing; lining up and waiting through customs and immigration, another bus to Yau Mei Tei, the MTR train to Wan Chai, and a 20-minute walk from the train station to the academy.

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“This shows to me how amazing she is, because it did not put her off and she can still smile about it,” Ma told the South Morning China Post. “Her positive attitude is an example to us all. Even after traveling for five hours down here from Foshan for a lesson, she is still smiling away.”

Perhaps it’s Yijie’s love and joy for life, so absent of bitterness and anger at her fate, that is most admirable in her; her affable personality and proclivity to laugh things off becomes her defense to a disability that would otherwise devastate those who didn’t possess the same spirit.

And while her sight eventually failed her, her family didn’t. They continued to rally behind her, looking for solutions and making the necessary arrangements to adjust to the changes. “I remember years ago holding Yijie by the hand to help guide her along the street while carrying her brother on my back,” Yijie’s mother said. “We did what we had to do.”

Yijie starts as a full-time senior this September, leaving her only two years more before she faces the next phase of her musical journey. What comes after is a fate insidious in its uncertainty, her dream of attending the Curtis Institute of Music in the United States, a goal still beyond her grasp. But as Yijie continues on with the same drive and desire, bringing with her the unmistakable vitality for life, she believes all the fruits of her perseverance will come in their own good time.

As for Yijie’s dream of playing in Carnegie Hall one day, professor Ma had this to say about his relentless student: “With this young woman, anything is possible.” Cody Cepeda/JB

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TAGS: Blindness, commute, disability, Hong Kong, Music, violinist
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