Young prodigy doesn't let disability get in the way of his special gift
October is National Disabilities Awareness Month. It's a time to focus on individuals' talents and abilities. We wanted to share the story of a young boy who reminds us that we all have a gift that we can share.
We first met Kale Apongan four years ago when we learned of his newly formed relationship with a schoolmate at Blue Angels Elementary. Jack Ryan befriended the boy with the cane to get to know him and to learn why he was different.
Well, it could be that Kale is repaying that gift of friendship with a gift of his own. You see, it appears that 10-year-old Kale, who is blind, is a self-taught pianist; no lessons, no braille keys.
According to his dad, Michael, he's been tinkling the ivories for a while now, "I don't think we really knew. We got him a keyboard before he was able to walk and we would leave it on the ground and he would crawl over to it and just start playing."
Kale was playing classical music pieces that he repeated from just hearing it. His fingers were magically finding the right keys to copy the tunes now locked into his memory.
Dad says he kept the music playing in his room, "We have Alexa in his room. So, you can say, ‘Alexa play classical.’ So, it'll just start going through random songs and I think that's where he picks up a lot of it."
His parents are pretty unassuming about his fete. To them, it's just their son doing what he likes to do.
His teacher Annie Carter, herself hard of hearing, was most impressed by Kale's talent.
Today, there's a special guest at school to meet Kale, Steinway Artist Dr. Kadisha Onalbayeva, "I think he's absolutely fabulous, talented and I am so happy to be here today and to listen to him. How he plays is amazing."
Kale explains all of this in pretty simple terms, "I like the music and it makes me happy."
Dr. Onalbayeva sees it as a little more than that, "Technically, what pieces he played, they are very, very challenging. They're not easy, believe me. You have to spend a lot, a lot of hours to play them."
Kale also plays contemporary pieces when the mood strikes him. Dr. Onalbayeva sees so much potential here, she wants to take the young prodigy under her wing.
Annie Carter hopes his music will give a voice to others with special gifts, "My main thing is, I wanted people in our community and even in the world, to see past disabilities and realize we all have our unique abilities."
Dr. Onalbayeva agrees, "This is just something special. We are always looking for, as a teacher, as an artist; we're looking for somebody who has something amazing, something amazing. That's exactly - he's incredible, incredible artist."