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May 30, 2014

Bright Spots - One Girl's Passion for Music Despite Disability

Charity Klicka

Music is a wonderful thing; an inspiring way to escape the day-to-day craziness of life.

The story I am about to tell you is a story about music, and about a sweet girl who pursued her love of music despite her disability.

15-year-old Joanna Costa was born with Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita (AMC), a disability that consists of joint contractures in both her hands and feet. This means Joanna has limited use of her toes and fingers, and specifically in respect to playing musical instruments she has limited to no use in her fingers.

Yet despite her disability, Joanna still loves music and pursues it with a passion! She taught herself how to play the piano at age seven. And just a few years ago, Joanna started playing the hammer dulcimer. If that isn’t already amazing, Joanna also loves to sing and has sung in multiple choirs and ensembles. “I have always loved music,” Joanna explains in an interview with the HSLDA Blog, “I like to play a variety of genres, but my favorites include classical pieces and hymns.”  

Joanna’s love for music started at a young age. It all began when Joanna asked her mom, who was a piano teacher, if she could give her piano lessons. “She was teaching my older brother Stephen, and whatever he did, I wanted to do too,” Joanna conveyed about her first interest in music. “Also, my dad and mom both play piano, so I wanted to play the piano like they did.  My dad would come home from work and play, and I would listen to him and think, ‘I want to do that.’” Joanna’s mom also plays in their church, and all that little five-year-old Joanna wanted to do was to play the piano as well as her parents.

Mrs. Costa consulted a music therapist, Janet, about Joanna’s condition and if she’d be able to play the piano. Janet assessed Joanna’s ability to play and felt very confident that Joanna could learn to play the piano. “That therapist”, Joanna explained, “became my piano teacher and has been teaching me ever since.  She has especially taught me how to play more complex pieces with my physical limitations (since I can only play with 2 or 3 fingers at most in each hand).”

Through all of this, Mr. and Mrs. Costa homeschooled Joanna and taught her the importance of music and education. Speaking of her homeschool experience, Joanna explained that “homeschooling has allowed [her] schedule to be flexible enough to allow for the therapy and doctor’s visits necessitated by [her] diagnosis”, as well as for extracurricular activities.  Although Joanna isn’t able to play certain sports such as soccer or softball, homeschooling has afforded her the opportunities to do other extracurricular and physical activities such as sled hockey, horseback riding, participating in the science fair, and the 4-H club. Homeschooling has also allowed her enough flexibility to practice and record music.

In 2013, Joanna released her first CD, called Four Fingers, Two Hands, One Piano. The CD includes pieces played by Joanna from Muzio Clementi and Joseph Haydn. In Joanna's own words: "Playing these pieces, even with a disability, allows me to enjoy the beauty of music - a beauty I hope to share with others. Having to work harder, perhaps more than others, to perform the pieces gave me an even greater appreciation of the compositions."

When asked what her inspiration was behind her first album, Joanna said: “I have to blame my father for this one.  Primarily, dad encouraged me to share my story. Our desire was to promote the idea that disabled individuals can still do amazing things (and should not be looked down by others in society) and we wanted to bring glory to God through the process.” Although there were some technical difficulties and the album took 3 years to record, Joanna said “it was a good learning experience to go through the recording process and it taught [her and her dad] patience.”

With one album under her belt, Joanna hopes to record another CD in the not too distant future. Joanna also loves to help people, and some of her future goals in that area include going to the Middle East this spring to help at a home for girls, and helping out at an orphanage in Mexico this summer. “I have always wanted to help kids”, Joanna explained, “and I hope to do something along these lines in the future.”

Homeschooling has allowed Joanna the opportunities to pursue her passion for music and her passion for helping people. She loves God and has a heart ready and waiting for Him to use. I look forward to see how God will use Joanna next.

PC: Sarah Fisher

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