Teen with rare disease realises dream to play piano in front of 500 people

Teen with rare disease realises dream to play piano in front of 500 people

Last year, Zhang Pei Shan passed by a grand piano and told her parents she wanted to perform for a large audience.

And tomorrow, she will be doing just that - at a concert organised by the Beautiful Mind Charity (BMC) - in front of more than 500 people at the Singapore School of The Arts.

The concert is a platform for disabled students from the BMC to perform.

Pei Shan's musical abilities grabbed the attention of BMC in an audition two months ago, earning her a sponsorship for her music lessons.

"It is a miracle that she gets to fulfil her dreams and we are very proud of her," said her father, cabby Zhang Qi Kuang, 55.

Pei Shan, 15, suffers from MPS III, a rare disease that has robbed her of the ability to walk or breathe on her own, and severely stunts her growth.

When she was just four months old, she was hospitalised for stridor, a wheezing symptom that occurs as the opening between the vocal cords become narrower.

She was later diagnosed with MPS III.

"The doctors said they had no means of treating her. They only told us to wait for her condition to improve," said her mother Florence Chew.

Despite this, Pei Shan continues to persevere to improve her piano skills, which she picked up about seven years ago.

"She was motivated to play the piano when she saw a little toy piano," said Madam Chew.

Pei Shan's parents discovered her musical ability when she was seven-years-old, through a neighbour who is a certified music teacher.

"She taught Pei Shan for free because she was moved by her passion to learn the piano. She was surprised to find out that Pei Shan learnt pretty fast," said Madam Chew.

Pei Shan doesn't refer to her music scores when she plays.

"She is confident and plays from memory, and will also correct me when I instruct her wrongly," said Madam Chew, who learnt how to read music scores so that she can guide her daughter during practice.


The teen's talent and passion impressed the judges at Beautiful Mind Music Academy (BMMA).

"They were impressed by her patience and ability to play basic songs on her own," said Ms Kimmy Kim, the coordinator of BMMA. Going for piano practice wasn't easy.

Unable to breathe on her own, Pei Shan relies on a tank of portable oxygen attached to her customised stroller.

"Sometimes after half-an-hour of practice, she would be panting heavily," said Madam Chew.

Because of her glaucoma, her eyes also water when she plays for long hours.

"I monitor her expressions and stop her practice when she is in discomfort," said Madam Chew.

However, Pei Shan, who likes to play Christian songs on the piano, does not go easy on her training.

When Pei Shan first received the sponsorship, she took one-hour lessons weekly. Three weeks before her performance, her training increased to twice a week.

"She was enthusiastic about the extra training. She even practised two other days a week on her own," said her mother.

Madam Chew, who accompanies her daughter to every piano lesson, is elated with Pei Shan's development.

"She is now so disciplined that she even reminds me to be early for lessons," she said.

The teen also insists on playing the piano on her own, unaccompanied by a parent.

Said Madam Chew: "She told me she wanted to see her mum and dad enjoy her performance from the audience."

This article was published on April 18 in The New Paper.

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