IM this article to a friend!

May 10, 2003

Deaf classical pianist to perform benefit concert

From: Grand Junction Sentinel, CO - May 10, 2003

By MIKE McKIBBIN The Daily Sentinel

 GLENWOOD SPRINGS -- A Glenwood Springs classical pianist will take the first step toward resuming her musical career since she lost her hearing, in a benefit performance for another woman recovering from a serious car accident.

 Roberta Meriwether will perform today to raise funds for Marla Williams Gettman, who suffered a severe head injury in a December crash on Berthoud Pass.

 Roberta's husband, Bill, said his wife lost most of her hearing due to a fever at age 6. She completed her music studies and graduated from the St. Louis Institute of Music in 1971. But she lost all her hearing when she reached 30 years of age, her husband said.

 "She became very depressed and gave up playing the piano for a long time," he said.

 Roberta began undergoing counseling sessions with Mary Williams, Marla's mother. Meriwether said those sessions, and a friendship with the Williams family, helped his wife to perform in local churches. When Gettman was injured, he said Roberta decided to use her music to help the family.

 "About six months ago she began practicing regularly, up to eight hours a day," Meriwether said. "She completely surprised a lot of people because she started playing complicated pieces she had never played before, just by being a very good music reader."

 Anig Agemian Raley is Roberta's piano coach and said her student was devastated when Gettman was injured.

 "But now she's come full circle with what she had to deal with when she lost her hearing and she's doing this to raise money for the Williams family," she said. "She has a wonderful sense of feel through her hands. That's how she learns; I play the right chords and she feels the piano."

 Roberta practices and will perform on a grand piano provided by Tim Wirth Piano Service of Glenwood Springs.

 Meriwether said Roberta talks about hearing a "phantom voice" or sounds when she plays the piano. He believes it may be a similar reaction people have when they believe they can still feel a missing arm or leg.

 The Williams family, including Marla, who is confined to a wheelchair, are expected to attend today's performance, Meriwether said.

 Roberta's performance is scheduled for 4 p.m. in the Colorado Mountain College New Space Theater on the Spring Valley Campus, south of Glenwood Springs. Tickets are $20.

© 2003 Cox Newspapers, Inc.