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NCHAM: National Center for Hearing Assessment and Management, Utah State University

Discovering Our Potential

The Remarkable Story of a 17-Year-Old Piano-Playing Prodigy

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Meet 17 year old Yerko DiFonis. Born blind and partially deaf in Valparaiso, Chile, Yerko has overcome countless obstacles throughout his life to fulfill his goals and accomplish his dreams.

As a boy in Chile, Yerko exhibited a strong desire and ability to learn. This was a difficult pursuit in his native home due to the lack of adequate educational programs for deaf-blind children. However, his educational deficiencies did not overtake his desires, and even without adequate instruction, he began to train himself to rise above his difficulties and learn to live life on his own terms.

Currently known to many as a piano-playing prodigy, Yerko has led a life devoted to his love for music. With the help of his parents and other musical family members, Yerko began very early in life to learn some basic skills on the guitar, bass, and piano. The rest he did on his own through listening. Remarkably, one of Yerko’s greatest tools in learning and studying music has been the minimal hearing which he maintains through the use of hearing aids in both ears.

In addition to learning five other instruments, Yerko has become a very accomplished pianist and has even finished several of his own musical compositions. He also won the 2010 VSA International Young Soloist Award for New York State, and until recently, was enrolled in the prestigious Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in New York City. Though he is still facing some major challenges, Yerko will continue to pursue his dream in becoming a professional pianist.

Yerko’s story has become an inspiration to people all over the world. He is truly an example of a person’s ability in overcoming all odds to accomplish the true desires of his heart. Through his courage and determination, he proves to the rest of us that there are no limits in our capacities to grow, despite even the most inauspicious circumstances.

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