Music education major overcomes hearing struggles

Senior music education major Sam Rivera was 3 years old when his mother discovered he had a hearing problem. While he was taking a nap, his mother was in another room asking him to grab a clean towel. Rivera did not hear a single sound. After a trip to an ear, nose, and throat specialist at a children’s hospital in Washington D.C., Rivera and his family learned he had no hearing in his right ear. His other ear currently has approximately 79 percent hearing.

Before Rivera learned of his hearing problem, he had already started to develop a love for music. “My mom would make me learn Spanish kid songs and sing them in front of everybody in church,” said Rivera. He even has a VHS tape of one of these performances when he was a toddler. When he was 8 years old, Rivera decided to learn how to play the trumpet.

During his early school days, Rivera not only experienced struggles with his music, but also in the classroom. “I remember being in elementary school in the third grade. I had all these wires and cords connected all around my head on each side with a box on my desk connected to the cords. I felt like a dumb-downed robot, a human guinea pig having all these wires and plugs and having to walk around everywhere I went with it,” said Rivera. This box also brought rude comments from fellow students.

At Rivera’s first band concert in elementary school, he cried because he could not hear himself or anyone else on his right side playing. “I’ve always struggled to hear myself and others play unless I was isolated or if the other students would play individually. I honestly can’t count how many times I’ve cried about my hearing at this stage of my life. But over time, it became less of a struggle,” said Rivera.

There have been many times that Rivera’s hearing issues have been so overwhelming he has considered giving up. “What stopped me from giving up was my thought of doing what I loved the most. I realized that even in my hardest and darkest times music has also been there. It has always given me feelings. I would cry when I hear music so sweet and elegant. I would laugh and be happy when I hear music filled with funny auxiliary percussion and amazing outstanding brass parts. Music was always a part of me,” said Rivera.

Rivera’s current wind ensemble professor, Dr. Joseph Scagnoli, is impressed with his music skills. “Samuel’s work ethic, as it relates to his constant drive to improve his musicianship and technical abilities on his instrument, has always impressed me. His actions speak louder than words as an outstanding role model to other student musicians,” said Scagnoli.

Rivera is now looking forward to graduating and sharing his passion for music with others. “I would like to share the love and passion I have for music with students of the next coming generations,” said Rivera.

Tessa Montgomery is a senior from Indianapolis, Ind., majoring in public relations and minoring in nonprofit leadership®, writing on behalf of Anderson University Office of Communication and Marketing.

Anderson University is a private, liberal arts institution in Anderson, Indiana with a mission to educate students for lives of faith and service in the church and society. Anderson University is recognized among top colleges by U.S. News and World ReportColleges of Distinction, and The Princeton Review. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, the university now offers more than 60 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in businessmusic education, and theology.

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