Beyond a Story - Stephanie Ow: Music Is My Vision
Updated: Jul 4, 2021
“Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another stepping stone to greatness.” - Oprah Winfrey
This was first written and shared on Blogger - 21 March 2020. Sharing it here on my website, one year later. I first shared the idea of featuring Stephanie on 21 June 2019. Took me exactly 9 month to finish this post.
Picture taken at Stephanie's graduation recital on 3 May 2019
As many of you are already aware, I have always enjoyed listening to stories and penning down moments. Since I embarked on my Journalist career a few years ago, I have been wanting to keep a collection of feature stories of my loved ones. It was after much deliberation, I finally had time to think through on how I wish to start this project.
And the very first person, also a very important person whom I have decided to kick start this series with, is to feature my dearest sister Stephanie Ow Jia Min.
She's a talented youth who plays the erhu and violin, much respect! Her music journey wasn't as simple or direct as many others, but Stephanie received her Diploma in Music Performance from Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) in 2019.
Beyond a Story #1 - Stephanie Ow: Music Is My Vision
"Hello, my name is Stephanie. I am also known as the Blind Visionary Woman.
Even though I have a vision impairment, I have a vision
which is far greater than the eye could perceive."
Stephanie (left), and that's me, on her right, feeling so proud of her achievements :)
I first met Stephanie back in 2013. We were both amused to realise that we are called Jia Min and play the erhu for many years, during the filming of Channel U's television youth talk show series 《你在囧什么》 in Dec 2013. Perhaps, it was all fated? Since then, I have become one of her top fans, following her around to watch her perform in many occasions, such as the Very Special Arts, Singapore National Youth Chinese Orchestra and Purple Symphony performances, just to name a few.
And every single time, her performances left me in awe. :) I wish I could be as good as she is.
And here's a collage of us growing up over the years, from 2013 to 2015!
Stephanie has always been one of the most inspiring youth that I have met thus far. She has a gentle disposition. Over the years, she has shared many of her growing up stories with me. For her, growing up as a visually impaired individual in Singapore was challenging, yet her journey was fun-filled and often rewarding.
She's determined; eager to learn and excel.
In our recent conversation, I have seen her mature as a young woman, so keen and determined to spread love, faith and positivism with music.
"Besides my faith in God, yes, Music is an important source which enables me to become who I am today, and the woman I am becoming. Unlike languages which humanity use to commune with one another, music is much more. It is a source that connects everybody. Regardless of race, gender, colour of one’s skin, beliefs, disabilities and background."
Friends supporting Stephanie during her Purple Symphony concert last year!
With her lack of sight, there is probably no way that Stephanie can read printed sheet music. However, she listens, feels with her heart and visualizes images in her mind. This allowed her to use her senses, whenever she learns to play a new piece of music. I understand that she used to read music in braille, however due to the lack of accessibility and also limitations in resources to get the sheet music printed out in braille, she largely relies on her hearing.
Learning music was an exceptionally tough journey, but she thoroughly enjoyed the process - even learning more than one instrument at one time.
"I play the erhu as well as the violin. Actually, the violin has always been the instrument of my dreams, ever since I was a small child. However, violins are pretty expensive and my family really could not afford. In addition, nobody dared believe that a blind girl could muster a musical instrument, even though there were musicians who are blind, such as Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder."
She's a fighter; an inspiration and an advocate.
Stephanie shared that she grew up reading stories that were about kings, queens and anything a child would read before the electronic devices took over the spare time of a child. "I have always imagined myself as a queen. I'll like to look presentable but at the same time, natural. This is what a queen should be in my opinion."
And often, she would be overwhelmed by the expectations of others.
"I should be this or that. I even feel that I am not good enough. But then I realised, there will always be someone out there who will be better than me or worse than me. However, there is nobody who can be exactly who I am. The real and authentic Stephanie also known as the Blind Visionary Woman. I learnt to focus on me, the things I aim to achieve."
Here's us in 2018!
Although there might be challenges and struggles along the way, and she may even falter in the process, she knows that she will be a much stronger and better version of herself after that.
"I have been passionate about civil rights, disability rights and all that is related, ever since I was in my teens. Having read and heard a lot about the lack of awareness about the blind and visually impaired community, I feel that it is my duty to do my part in raising awareness. Not just for the blind and visually impaired community because I am a totally blind individual, but for all persons with disability."
Picture taken at Stephanie's appearance on TEDx Youth @ Singapore on 14 September 2019
And here's Stephanie charming the audiences through her inspiring speech and performance, "Every step you take, you are one step closer." 👣 (But there I was at the backstage, secretly tearing and proud of her speech and performance.)
"I hope that I am able to do more with violin, in the days to come. I have not really thought much about picking up other instruments, as the erhu and violin are enough. If I am given the opportunity, I’d love to learn jazz piano. I really love jazz and soul music. Or, singing is cool too."
-Read more about Beyond A Story here.
"As the saying goes, 'Music knows no boundaries'. So no matter who you are, where you’re from. As long as you love music, go for it." - Stephanie Ow