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May 16, 2003

Deaf man collects music degree

From:, Australia - May 16, 2003

A MAN who has been deaf since birth is to receive a Bachelor of Music from the Australian National University in what could be a world first.

James Kearney, who graduates today, was born with hearing loss of 90 decibels out of 120, and the sounds he hears are distorted.

Nevertheless, he remains an enthusiastic and competent pianist.

And he is thought to be the world's first deaf person to graduate with a music degree.

Mr Kearney began studying veterinary science after he finished high school and then decided to study music.

He focused on the theoretical aspect of the degree - musicology - and also studied Latin.

"I have always aspired to be a concert pianist, but I was realistic enough to know that I wasn't prepared to put in the long hours and I probably didn't have quite the right sort of talent to make a living out of it," he said.

"I can hear the notes and I can feel them.

"Sometimes, depending on the complexity of the music, I don't really hear all the individual parts, just the overall sound patterns."

He said his hearing aids amplified high frequency sounds, to maximise his capacity to hear speech, but that made some music, such as rock music unintelligible.

"I love music," he said.

"It's what I have always wanted to do.

"My career may follow a different path but my determination to be a musician will always remain."

ANU Vice-Chancellor Ian Chubb said Mr Kearney's success in studying both music and a language was an inspiration to all aspiring students.


Copyright 2003 News Limited.