Pianist’s ability outshines disability

Passion for piano: Bellambi’s Shannon Neeson displays his talents on the grand piano at Woonona Bulli RSL, which has offered him a regular gig. Picture: Robert PeetPlaying piano eases the pain that cerebral palsy inflicts onShannon Neeson’s fingers and arms.
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It also helps the18-year-old Bellambi residentto deal with his chronic anxiety, by giving him an ‘’escape’’.

But while his disability hasn’t stopped him from becoming an accomplished pianist, financial hardship may stop him from taking up a prized position at the Australian Institute of Music.

The Figtree High School student has been accepted into the Bachelor of Contemporary Performance degree, at the Sydney institute in 2016,but will struggle to securewheelchair accessible accommodation close by.

His family, while supportive of his dreams, lives in public housing while his father is a full-time carer to his younger brother who has a degenerative disability.

‘’Playing piano is one of the best things in the world –it’s not the most portable instrument but it is one of the most amazing and expressive ones,’’ Shannon said.

‘’Cerebral palsy affects my whole body –my left arm is severely affected, I can’t turn it and have little use of my third and fourth fingers –but playing the piano has really helped.

‘’I was gobsmacked when I was accepted into the course and just want to complete it and get a job –to be a taxpayer and not rely on welfare payments. But I wonder how I will pay my way.’’

Fatigue is a side-effect of his condition, while pain and cramps areongoing, so a four-hour daily commute is not an option. Shannon’s support teachers hope an online fundraiser will help him relocate to Sydney for the two-year course.

Figtree High support teacher Ellen Foord said Shannon had shown a passion –and talent– for the piano since he started playing four years ago.

‘’Most lunchtimes andsports afternoons, he would practise. He was quick to master the keyboard and piano became part of his escape –he loses himself in the music,’’ she said.

Shannon completed his HSC with top marks in music and English andreceived a school principal’s award.Department of Education regional transition teacher Merryl Bennett encouraged people to support him.

‘’He just wants the opportunity to get his degree and get a job –I hope he gets that,’’ she said.

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Illawarra Mercury

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