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Hearing Impaired Student Captures International Performance Award

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 Soloists//Award given by VSA arts.

The international, nonprofit organization was founded in 1974 by Ambassador Jean Kennedy 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 March 21. He will also receive a $5,000 scholarship to assist with his career and studies in music.

Cheong, who is pursuing a doctorate in musical arts in the WVU Division of Music in the College of Creative Arts, studies under the tutelage of Professor Peter Amstutz. He considers 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 the most, 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 pursuing their goals.”

Cheong is also a graduate assistant and teaches applied piano to others while assisting with 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 an accomplishment, and it’s especially amazing with his specific circumstances and the challenges 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 spirited c
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