Sun, Jun 15, 2008 - Page 2 News List

Meter-tall student a giant on stage

'FUN' AND 'COOL' Yeh Tzu-chia's condition makes him much smaller than he would normally be, but his guitar skills have turned him into a hero at his school

By Lee Jung-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

Twelve-year-old Yeh Tzu-chia plays the guitar as his classmates sing along at Beimen Elementary School in Taoyuan City.

PHOTO: LI JUNG-PING, TAIPEI TIMES

He may only be 102cm tall and shorter than the guitar he is holding, but as a top guitarist and one of his school's most popular kids, the 12-year-old Yeh Tzu-chia (葉子嘉) lives the life of a little giant.

Yeh, who attends fourth grade at Beimen Elementary School in Taoyuan, suffers from Achondroplasia, a chromosomal disorder that affects the bones.

As a result, his bone mass is that of a seven-year-old.

A fan of the popular rock band Mayday, Yeh started to learn how the play the instrument in first grade after his father gave him a guitar.

Playing guitar, he says, is “fun” and “cool.”

However, his talent remained unknown outside the immediate circle of his classroom until he signed up for a all-school talent show in September.

Yeh’s guitar skills impressed everyone at the school — students and teachers alike.

Later, the school invited visually impaired street performer Hsu Yen-pang (徐彥邦) to perform at a handicapped accessibility promotional concert, where Hsu and Yeh sang together on stage.

Their excellent performance touched the hearts of many in attendance.

Aside from his talent, Yeh is also a popular student in his school. All his classmates consider Yeh’s safety their responsibility, school principal Lin Mei-luan (林梅鸞) said.

As soon as Yeh walks out of the classroom, his classmates take turns as “bodyguards,” Lin said.

The school has also adapted to Yeh’s needs, providing elevators, slopes and lower sinks. However, Yeh would much rather take the stairs with his classmates than use the elevator, Lin said.

In addition to music, Yeh is also talented in the visual arts, with some of his artworks winning contests.

Asked about his dreams, Yeh said he wants to be an artist when he grows up.

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