Music Program Helps Visually Impaired Students Pursue Their Dreams

April 30, 2018 • Vietnam

Samaritan’s Purse began a music program 20 years ago in Hanoi, Vietnam, that is still changing lives.

The musicians on stage can’t see their instruments or the classmates sitting next to them. They can’t see how many people are in the crowd or their amazed expressions as they stand to applaud.

Students in the Samaritan’s Purse music program in Hanoi, Vietnam, don’t have to see in order to be moved by music because they play with their heart.

Samaritan’s Purse started a music program about 20 years ago for visually impaired students at Nguyen Dinh Chieu School. The program has expanded from a few classes to now more than 17 classes, including modern and folk music, and two student bands.

Orchestra at the blind school in Vietnam

Visually impaired students in the music program enjoy performing and making music together.

From the program’s inception until today, Samaritan’s Purse has supported more than 500 students by providing scholarships that help with expenses, including instruments and transportation to and from music lessons and performances. Many of these students have gone on to graduate from Vietnam’s prestigious National Academy of Music. Others have secured jobs as music teachers and professional musicians.

The visually-impaired young people featured below are either current or former students in the Samaritan’s Purse music program. We praise God for each of their success stories.

Nhu: Zither Player

Nhu was an energetic child who liked to turn household items—chairs, tables, and dishes—into her own personal drums. She began music lessons at age 4 and now, 10 years later, Nhu sings, plays several instruments, and performs with a traditional music guild in Hanoi.

Her favorite instrument is the zither, a 16-stringed, classical Vietnamese instrument.

Blind student in Vietnam

Nhu has worked hard to perfect her skills on the zither.

“All my friends in the guild are very dedicated and passionate,” said Nhu, who remains a student in our program. “I feel relaxed and stress-free when I perform. I am happier.”

Nhu’s mother, who is also a musician, admires her daughter’s work ethic and willingness to always be ready to learn.

“Nhu’s passion for music is great,” she said. “I am proud listening to the beautiful melodies Nhu plays.”

Thao: Street Performer

Thao’s parents said she could never make music a career and wanted nothing to do with her studying music at Nguyen Dinh Chieu.

Thao had her doubts, too.

“When I was a child, I didn’t think I could go to school. I couldn’t imagine that I would be able to play music,” she said.

But Thao, 17, was determined. She participated in the Samaritan’s Purse music program for 10 years and became quite skilled at playing the zither and violin.

Blind student in Vietnam performing on the street

Thao sings with a music group started by one of her former teachers in the music program.

One of Thao’s music teachers, who is also visually impaired, started a band and invited Thao and other students to join. They perform every week near a busy intersection in Hanoi.

“I get to stand on stage with my friends and learn from them and gain experience,” Thao said.

Over the years, as Thao’s parents attended her concerts, they became more and more impressed with their daughter’s musical talent. They finally allowed her to take the National Academy of Music entrance exam, and Thao has been attending for one year.

“I am doing what I love,” Thao said.

Tran: Music Teacher

Tran was among the first generation of music program graduates. He went on to study at the national academy and then returned to teach at Nguyen Dinh Chieu, because the music program is “special, meaningful, and purposeful.”

“Students gain more confidence and motivation,” Tran said. “As a teacher, I can contribute to the realization of their dreams.”

Blind music teacher in Vietnam

Tran is an inspiration to the next generation of aspiring musicians.

Tran sometimes relates to his students more easily than the sighted teachers because he, too, learned to play by sound and touch. His specialty, the monochord, only has one string, so he had to memorize the distance between different musical notes.

“I hold the students’ hands and guide them over the instruments so they know how to correctly pluck each note,” Tran explained. “They can’t read the music score, so they learn all the pieces by heart. They have to train their memory.”

Tran is grateful for an opportunity to share his passion for music with his students.

“I can’t imagine what I would do without music,” he said.

Binh: Record Producer

Binh, 28, is one of the most respected music producers in Vietnam. He has won numerous awards and worked with well-known artists throughout the country.

Binh’s favorite musical style is jazz, but he enjoys working with singers from many different genres. He plays more than 20 instruments and performs in a band with friends.

Blind music producer in Vietnam

Binh is known throughout Vietnam for his talent as a record producer.

“I’ve always yearned to learn,” Binh said. “I practice to update my knowledge and skills.”

Binh started his production company a few years after graduating from the music academy. He’s thankful for family, friends, and teachers in the Samaritan’s Purse music program who encouraged him to pursue his dream.

“I’m lucky to grow up in an environment with many kindhearted people who helped me a lot in my career.”

Huong: Music Program Coordinator

When Huong was 10 years old, the congenital glaucoma she’d struggled with finally took her sight.

“When I lost my sight, I thought I couldn’t fulfill my dream of becoming a teacher. My dream was rekindled when I began at Nguyen Dinh Chieu and the music program.”

Huong had to repeat three grades in order to catch up on her Braille reading and writing. Huong was used to excelling in school and was embarrassed that she was so far behind the other students.

Music program coordinator in Vietnam

Huong, right, translates during a special concert by the music program students.

She didn’t give up. After graduating from Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Huong studied in Australia and earned a master’s degree in international community development. She also studied in Japan in a leadership training program for people with disabilities.

Huong now works with Samaritan’s Purse and helps oversee the music program.

“The program serves as a springboard for students to pursue their passion in music,” she said. “I am involved in this program to help students develop their talents. In the future, when they grow up, they can help others, too.”

Please pray for the visually impaired students in the music program as they continue to work hard and pursue their dreams. Pray that they will trust God with their future and will come to know His perfect plan for their lives.

Vietnam Projects Samaritan’s Purse has been working to better the lives of Vietnamese families since 1996. Our teams are focused on supporting maternal and child health, especially during pregnancy; preventing child abuse and human trafficking; and providing educational and vocational opportunities for vulnerable and disabled children. We also have projects focused on clean water, agriculture, and livelihoods, as well as disaster response.

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