Over­com­ing great odds, they now aim high

The New Paper - - NEWS - CLE­MENT YONG

Two NUS grad­u­ates on their tough road to suc­cess

Born blind, Mr Steven Tanus, 24, is the first vis­ually im­paired stu­dent to at­tain a Bach­e­lor of Mu­sic de­gree at the Na­tional Univer­sity of Sin­ga­pore (NUS).

He will re­ceive his de­gree this month with 10,866 other grad­u­ates. Com­mence­ment cer­e­monies for the NUS class of 2018 will be held from July 12 to 19.

Speak­ing to The New Pa­per while seated next to a grand pi­ano at NUS’ Yong Siew Toh Con­ser­va­tory of Mu­sic con­cert hall, he said: “I do not want to be known as just a good blind pi­anist. I want to be known as a good pi­anist who hap­pens to be blind.”

En­cour­aged to learn mu­sic when he was four years old, he had for­mal pi­ano lessons only at 16.It was only af­ter he met Mr Stephen Ta­madji, a renowned pi­anist in Jakarta, in 2012 that he fell in love with the in­stru­ment he de­scribes as an en­tire orches­tra con­tained in a big box.

Now, he learns pieces by ear and through mem­ory, tak­ing an av­er­age of two months to learn each new piece.

For that, he thanks his friends and teach­ers at the Yong Siew Toh Con­ser­va­tory for their pa­tience.

He said: “It is a small and in­ti­mate com­mu­nity. Ev­ery­one is will­ing to help. When I feel dis­cour­aged, my friends tell me they would not be able to play the way they do if they closed their eyes.”

Mr Tanus has won medals at in­ter­na­tional pi­ano fes­ti­vals in Vi­enna and Tokyo in com­pe­ti­tions held for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties, but he dreams of one day com­pet­ing on a level play­ing field with other pi­anists.

He is think­ing of pur­su­ing a mas­ter’s in pi­ano in Europe.

Mr M Thirukku­maran, 25, will also be grad­u­at­ing this month. He had scored 173 points for his PSLE and was so bad in his stud­ies that his school al­most kicked him out in Secondary 2.

He said he once scored one out of 50 for an al­ge­bra test in Sec 3.

But thanks to his math­e­mat­ics teacher, Mr Tan Thiam Boon, he topped his class for the next test that year.

Mr Thirukku­maran will now grad­u­ate from NUS with a Bach­e­lor of Sci­ence in Busi­ness An­a­lyt­ics with high­est dis­tinc­tion. He will also ad­dress his peers as the vale­dic­to­rian at his grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mony.

Mr Thirukku­maran is also the re­cip­i­ent of a schol­ar­ship awarded by the Min­istry of the En­vi­ron­ment and Wa­ter Re­sources, where he hopes to tackle so­cial prob­lems re­lated to the en­vi­ron­ment.

Next year, he will pur­sue a mas­ter’s in com­puter sci­ence overseas, pos­si­bly at the Univer­sity of Ed­in­burgh.

clementy@sph.com.sg

TNP PHOTO: TI­MOTHY DAVID

Mr M Thirukku­maran (left) and Mr Steven Tanus.

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