Video: Hard work pays off for talented former Wymondham High School pupil Chris
11:05 10 May 2014
An inspirational student who lost his eyesight aged 16 is on the cusp of achieving a first class degree as a classical guitarist.
Former Wymondham High School pupil Chris Alderson, 24, developed a rare disease which destroys the optic nerve while studying for his GCSEs.
Mr Alderson, of Marlingford, went blind aged 16, but did not let it rule his life.
He picked up a guitar around a year after losing his sight, puts in at least three hours practice every day and is set to graduate from City College Norwich with a music degree this year – finding out his results next month.
“I had always wanted to play, even before I had eye trouble,” said Mr Alderson. “I was into bands like Green Day and Iron Maiden.
“I had tried playing before I lost my eyesight but I found it easier when I couldn’t see what I was doing.
“It was easier getting muscle memory together with the sound.
“I took to it quite quickly for some reason.
“Hopefully I can make a living out of what I love.”
The humble musician specialises in classical and Spanish traditional guitar.
And he has hailed tutors at City College and his private guitar tutor Kale Bannosian, of Easton, for helping him towards his goal.
“I think my teacher was a bit nervous to begin with, but we developed our own system,” he smiled. “We would go through a piece of music a few times then I would practice at home and record it to my dictaphone.
“I think he wouldn’t have bothered if he didn’t think it was possible.”
He said the 18-month period when he developed optic neuritis was tough.
“I would have an attack and my eyesight would get worse, then it would get better for a few months,” he said. “It was really really hard for me.
“I wasn’t at school very much and lost touch with a lot of my friends there.
“It was quite an unstable time and it was hard to come to terms with, but once you’ve lost your eyesight you don’t have much choice and you do get on with it.
“It makes everything a lot harder, but you have to develop your own strategies.”
Mr Alderson has been playing guitar for nearly eight years now, and as part of his Creative Practices into Enterprise music degree at City College he has been learning about gig promotion and other ways of making a living from music.
He already performs at functions – including gigs at the Cock Inn in Barford – and said his family have always been supportive.
“My mum plays the piano and is really good at sight-reading, so that’s helped me a lot,” he added. “But we’re not that musical a family.
“They always encourage me to keep going.”
The former Barford County Primary pupil admits he did not know what a classical guitar was before he started lessons, but now relishes the challenge.
His degree show is at Cafe Bar Marzano at The Forum on Friday, May 16 at 7.30pm.
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