Jennifer Castellano

Audiological history: I was born both visually and hearing impaired; however my hearing impairment was not officially diagnosed until I was eight years old. Strangely though, I didn’t learn how to talk until I was three and a half years old. I think my family thought that I was just a late bloomer. After all, I didn’t learn how to walk until I was two. Also they were focused on helping me overcome my visual difficulties. However, the main reason why my hearing loss went undetected for so long was because I was born with what you call a cookie bite loss. I can hear high and low frequencies but everything in between is not great. Because I was hearing the high and low frequencies fine in both ears, it was thought that my hearing was okay.</p>

I have a moderate to severe, sensorineural loss in both ears and wear digital hearing aids in both ears which help a lot. However understanding speech still can sometimes be a challenge for me when a person is not looking directly at me or is standing at a far distance. Noisy environments can also a challenge.

Musical studies: I began piano studies when I was eight years old, a few months before I was diagnosed with my hearing loss. Because of my visual difficulties, I learned music by ear for the first two years of my studies. During this time I discovered that I have absolute pitch. My teacher would have me turn my back to the piano, and I was to guess the random pitches that she played. I could name every one. In the beginning, it seemed paradoxical that I was a hearing impaired musician. However, when I learned of Beethoven’s hearing loss, I found myself a new musical idol. It was Beethoven and his music that inspired me to keep going. Furthermore, I realized that my musical strengths didn’t come from how well I could hear but how well I could remember. This is why I firmly believe that a good musical ear does not require 100% hearing but a very good memory.

When I play music I relay a lot on touch and muscle memory. I always wear my hearing aids, and for reading music I look through a telescopic lens. Memory has been my life savior in terms of making music. In addition, understanding the musical form of each piece I play is very important to me. If I can’t understand it, then I can’t play it. It is as simple as that.

In May 2004, I earned a Bachelor of Arts in Music from Manhattanville College where I concentrated in classical piano performance. It was during my college studies that I began studying composition and began writing music for the first time. Then, in May 2008, I earned a Master of Music from Purchase College where I concentrated in composition.

My music teachers have been extremely helpful and encouraging during my years of study. I have studied piano with Donna DeAngelis, Catherine Coppola and Flora Kuan and have studied composition with Mary Ann Joyce-Walter, Suzanne Farrin, Huang Ruo and Joel Thome.

To learn more about my music, visit my website .