Blind 13-year-old boy who plays piano shortlisted for national award

A 13-year-old boy with complex disabilities has found friendship through his love of piano and has been shortlisted for a national charity annual award.

Chapman Shum, who lives near Southfields Station in Wimbeldon Park Road, Wandsworth, was born blind due to a rare genetic condition and also has speech and learning difficulties. 

He has been nominated for the Young Person of the Year award in the annual awards celebrations held by national disability charity, Sense.

Chapman Shum (Picture: Sense charity)

Mr Shum cannot read music, but teaches himself pieces by listening and memorising thousands of notes. 

He achieved a distinction in his Grade 8 piano exam aged 11 – which is the equivalent to an A-level in music.  

Mr Shum regularly performs public piano recitals which have helped build his confidence, but he’s often struggled to make friends. 

His father, Chun Shum, said: “We are immensely grateful to the judges for recognising Chapman’s journey and shortlisting him for this prestigious award. 

“Their acknowledgement means the world to him. We are incredibly proud of Chapman and all that he has achieved.

“No matter how difficult it may be, we want him to know that we are always by his side, cheering him on. 

“Chapman’s unwavering determination, can-do spirit and ever-smiling face inspire us every day.” 

Campahm Shum playing the piano (Picture: Sense charity)

The annual awards has 13 categories in total which aim to recognise the achievements of disabled people and those that support them, including carers, volunteers and fundraisers.  

Research by Sense shows that more than half of people with complex disabilities often or always feel lonely, compared to a quarter of the general population. 

Mr Shum’s parents, Chun and Jing Shum, signed their son up to Sense’s virtual buddying programme, which connects people with similar interests in a bid to reduce loneliness. 

Through this programme, Mr Shum met Gabby Sanchez, 22, a Sense volunteer.

The pair have bonded over their shared love of music and Ms Sanchez dusted off her flute after years of not playing so they could play music together.  

Mr Shum and Ms Sanchez meet online every week, to take part in various activities together including arts and crafts, baking and music jamming sessions.  

Since Mr Shum began the sessions with his virtual buddy more than a year ago now, he said he is more confident expressing himself, more open to conversations with other people, and is playing piano at music venues across the country. 

Richard Kramer, chief executive of Sense and judge for the Sense Awards, said: “Chapman is truly an exceptional young man and I’m delighted he’s made such huge strides in his confidence and social skills since joining Sense’s virtual buddying programme. 

“I hope Chapman feels proud being shortlisted for this prestigious award and I wish him lots of luck at the awards ceremony next month.”  

Sense will reveal this year’s winners at its awards ceremony on November 23.

Pictured top: Chapman Shum at his piano (Picture: Sense charity)

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