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Joab's musical opportunities

Photo: Joab's passion for music has brought him many opportunities

Joab’s (14) passion for music has opened up a world of new experiences for him. He tells us why he thinks deaf young people should grasp all the opportunities they can.

Joab still remembers the moment he knew he wanted to learn to play the drums. “I was in Year 3,” he recalls. “We had someone come in and showcase the drums and I thought, ‘I want to learn how to do that.’” He’s been having lessons ever since and has never looked back.

Having no hearing in his right ear hasn’t stopped Joab from learning other instruments as well. He describes himself as a “drummer at heart but also a percussionist”.

Having already achieved Grade 8 drums, he has also managed to fit in Grade 4 tuned percussion (xylophone, snare drum and timpani) and Grade 6 snare drum. On top of that, he’s self-taught in piano. “It’s always good for musicians to know how to play piano,” he says sensibly. 

"Music's my getaway"

Music isn’t just a hobby for Joab – it’s something he feels can benefit people in many ways. “Music’s my getaway,” he explains. “Whenever I’m feeling down or stressed, I play some music or the drums. Playing music offers a whole new side of life that you get to involve yourself in. The experiences you get don’t just help you become a better musician, they help you with confidence.”

In Joab’s case, he really has taken as many opportunities with his music as possible. In fact, his personal motto is ‘A missed opportunity is a missed growth in personality.’

He’s been involved with orchestras through school and his area’s music service. And through doing that, other opportunities have opened up. “About a year ago I played the Royal Albert Hall’s Music for Youth Proms; that was a really fun experience. I’ve also played Birmingham Symphony Hall and St David’s Hall, Cardiff,” says Joab.

Not only that, but he’s also busy every school lunchtime in the music room participating in things like wind band, folk group and melodica club. All these activities, and the fact that Joab was a member of our Young People’s Advisory Board (YAB), led him to win his Headteacher’s Award for inspiring young people in Year 7.

But although Joab has had success with music, being a deaf musician does come with some challenges. For him to have the best chance in his music exams, some adjustments have been needed.

“I had to have the speaker on my left-hand side and we’ve had sound checks to make sure I can hear the music I’m playing along to,” explains Joab. Music teachers too have had to learn to be patient and repeat instructions when necessary.

"He's got a distinction!"

One exam experience where Joab didn’t hear any of the playback tracks left him feeling upset. “He thought he’d completely failed it,” says mum Jules. “He just had to make it up. I phoned up to complain but they said, ‘He’s got a distinction!’ He’d been pulled down a bit on the playback but he’d more than made up for it with near perfect marks on his pieces.” 

Joab is becoming more and more confident about speaking up when he can’t hear and Jules believes that being on the YAB is the main reason for this. “The YAB is the best thing that ever happened to him,” she says proudly.

And Joab agrees, saying, “Without it I wouldn’t be the person I am today.” While it isn’t possible for all deaf children to be on the YAB, Jules has some advice for other deaf young people: “Find someone you can talk to, to give you that confidence to actually say, ‘I can’t hear,’” she says.

Luckily, Joab doesn’t have to speak up too much at his current school, whose support he can’t fault. “I’m very lucky,” he smiles. “We’ve got an amazing inclusion department; they deal not just with deafness but all sorts of disabilities. Whenever I’ve struggled with hearing in class, I can ask my friends or go to the teachers who are very deaf aware.”

Perhaps Joab appreciates this more as it wasn’t always the same story in primary school, which was the time the family needed support the most.

"I’ve had difficulties, but I’ve been able to overcome them."

Joab wasn’t diagnosed until he was four, at a school hearing test. “They sent us to the hospital and they confirmed it,” remembers Jules. “They said the nerves didn’t connect at birth so he’ll never have any hearing on that side. He can’t even have a hearing aid because there’s zero sound. It was a shock, especially because three weeks later we found out he had limited sight in his right eye.”

With no prior knowledge or experience of deafness, Jules armed herself with information from us, which she describes as ‘brilliant’.

Jules is clearly proud of how far Joab has come since then and describes him as a bright and articulate boy with big plans for the future. “He already knows what A-levels and university degree he wants to do,” she says.

Unsurprisingly, music is the path he wants to go down and current plans include being a music teacher and setting up an online music business.

Like his mum, Joab too has some encouragement for other deaf young people. “Take opportunities,” he advises. “You don’t know until you take them what the outcome’s going to be. Most of the time, it’s going to be positive. I’ve had difficulties but I’ve been able to overcome them. And I can do things that hearing people can do.”