Deaf musician plays viola with Baltimore Symphony Orchestra

Music isn't just for people who can hear. Wendy Cheng has proved that. She's deaf -- but plays the viola.

Cheng was invited to play with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Wednesday night in an event called the Rusty Musicians. It was a chance for ordinary music lovers to play Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 with professionals.

"I chose to do this with the BSO because I love that movement very much," Cheng said. "The idea of playing it with a real orchestra was just too irresistible for me to pass up. Even though I have a hearing loss; I keep thinking, Beethoven would approve."

Cheng, founder of the Association of Adult Musicians with Hearing Loss, has always been a musician. She lost her hearing after a bad fever when she was 2 years old. She started playing the piano at age seven and later began playing violin in college.

"The piano is what I call something that somebody chose for me," Cheng said. "But the violin was something that I chose for myself."

So how did she become a deaf musician? She learned on a "bright sounding instrument" that echoed particular notes. She memorized the notes and it helped her stay in tune. Now, she looks at Beethoven, who was also a deaf musician, as an inspiration.

"When he composed his piece, he was completely deaf," she said. "But his knowledge of music theory and his knowledge of symphonic theory was so good that even though he had no residual hearing, he had what I call hearing of the heart. And he was able to create a beautiful symphony."

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