Middletown hearing-impaired student teaches herself to play piano during pandemic

For Arelis Betancourt Franquiz, who is hearing impaired, teaching herself how to play the piano was in part born of boredom and an escape from the dreariness of isolation from the pandemic. “I was not really into the piano at first, but then I was bored, and I wanted to try something new rather than spend time on my phone all day,” said the 8th grader from Middletown Middle School shown her at home. (Provided Photo\Journal-News)
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For Arelis Betancourt Franquiz, who is hearing impaired, teaching herself how to play the piano was in part born of boredom and an escape from the dreariness of isolation from the pandemic. “I was not really into the piano at first, but then I was bored, and I wanted to try something new rather than spend time on my phone all day,” said the 8th grader from Middletown Middle School shown her at home. (Provided Photo\Journal-News)

One Middletown student’s remote learning experience saw her advance from a computer keyboard to piano keys, and she even recently entertained her classmates with her newly self-taught musical talent.

For Arelis Betancourt Franquiz, who is hearing impaired, teaching herself how to play the piano was in part born of boredom and an escape from the dreariness of isolation from the pandemic.

“I was not really into the piano at first, but then I was bored, and I wanted to try something new rather than spend time on my phone all day,” said the eighth-grader from Middletown Middle School.

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The piano was given to her by a family friend, and she eventually began to play around with it out of curiosity.

“I looked up songs that really interested me and just learned little by little,” she said. “My first song I learned was, “My Heart will Go On” by Celine Dion from the “Titanic” movie. It distracted me from thinking about the pandemic.”

Franquiz is no stranger to music.

She plays the alto saxophone for the school band and does so despite being hearing impaired by listening via a cochlear implant.

Learning to play the piano gave also gave her an option in passing the time at home besides less-productive pastimes, she said.

“It helped me to not be on the PlayStation a lot. I really enjoy playing the piano,” she said. “It is really calming to play it and some people say that it is really cool that I know how to play it.”

Recently she played a song at the end of an online class lesson for fellow students in her science class.

“I was shocked. It gave me goosebumps,” said Middletown Middle School science teacher Tyler Sidenstick, who allows five free minutes at end of each of his virtual class lessons for students to share with one another.

“It was probably one of the highlights of this year so far. She is probably one of the brightest students that we have here and she loves learning. And she is extremely nice and very personable, always asking questions and joking around.”

Franquiz said she may be hooked on piano for a long time.

“I do plan to play the piano when quarantine ends and my mom is trying to get me a piano teacher and a bigger piano for my birthday,” she said.

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