“Never give up”: Young musician who is deaf and partially sighted plays both violin and piano

Young musician Charlie Denton with his parents Emma and Matthew and sister Daisy.

A young musician who is deaf and partially sighted but plays both violin and piano is going to Parliament to tell MPs: “Never give up”.

Charlie Denton, 11, was so deaf as a toddler that his parents were told he would not hear an aeroplane taking off.

The talented schoolboy was born with Usher Syndrome, which causes hearing loss and retinitis pigmentosa – a deterioration in sight.

As well as attending a music academy every Saturday, Charlie is also learning Braille in case he loses his vision.

But the cheerful youngster has already achieved his Grade 3 in piano, with distinction, last term and was due to take his Grade 4 violin exam this term until he broke his arm.

Charlie said: “I love it. It is hard sometimes because I can’t tell the pitch or the notes.

“I can get frustrated because I sometimes struggle. I felt great when I got my implants because I could listen to the beats.

“It has really helped me, my hearing has improved.”

Young musician Charlie Denton.

Charlie’s parents Emma and Matthew, both 41, are professional musicians and perform in Carducci String Quartet.

Emma plays the cello while Matthew plays the violin, but they both use their skills to teach their son.

Charlie, of Gloucester, got his bilateral cochlear implant aged three and began learning the violin the same year.

But it was only within the past two years that he began to identify songs on the car radio, and within the past year that he was able to sing along with his favourite pop star, Ed Sheeran.

His younger sister Daisy, aged nine, plays the cello and the siblings have a “healthy competition,” their mother says.

Emma believes that learning music has improved Charlie’s overall hearing.

She said: “The challenge has been pitching, and not knowing if something is out of tune.

“We have managed to find a really old violin that happened to have a couple of frets.

“It has just been about adapting things, and a bit more practice than his sister, who has normal hearing, would need.

“At the moment it hasn’t put him off. In every octave there are 12 semitones but he will be able to hear three or four.

“It is amazing to see what he can achieve. It is still a learning process for everyone.”

The family performed as a quartet at a Christmas service last year, and Emma said: “It was a really special moment.

“When you are first told your child is deaf, you think ‘that’s sad, that he won’t have the experiences we have had.’

“All our family play music. But when he showed an interest and put in effort, it was just lovely. You can see his brain adapting.

“It is amazing that he is now trying to recognise the difference between a B and an A.”

Young musician Charlie Denton with his parents Emma and Matthew and sister Daisy

He performed last year at a festival in Poland for deaf children, and found a Greek penpal with the same implants, who plays the piano.

The friends send each other YouTube videos of their latest achievements and even swap football shirts.

Although Charlie had planned to perform a duet with Emma during his trip to Parliament, he will now make a speech instead.

He plans to tell politicians: “Never give up, even if things get hard. Pursue your dreams.”

Charlie is starting to lose his peripheral vision but his parents are optimistic that medical progress will have been made by the time he reaches adulthood to treat the condition.

In September he will start at a grammar school near Stonehouse, Glos., where the family live.

Emma said: “The implants have transformed his life.”


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