Photo and video by NELSON JONES
WINCHESTER, Va. – Graduation day is a big deal for students and their parents. The young man you are about to meet will certainly make his parents extra proud when he walks across the stage.
When Andrew Tompkins sits down at the piano, he says, “My ears are my eyes.” That is because he is legally blind.
His professor, Dr. Bob Larson, still remembers Andrew as a high school senior auditioning for a spot in the music department at Shenandoah University.
Larson said, “I remember when he left, my colleagues who were listening with me said, ‘Wow, that would be really a fun experience to work with that guy.’”
“I’m definitely proud of myself,” he told us.
“I’m glad he’s graduating, but in the back of my mind, I kind of wish he wasn’t,” said Dr. Larson.
He still wants to keep Andrew around.
“Of course,” he said. “It’s been a joy to have him here.”
That joy started early for Andrew.
“Piano was just a passion of mine,” Andrew said. “I wanted to learn it. I wanted to learn all about it.”
How does someone who can’t see play the piano? He starts by finding the Middle C.
Andrew says he loves to use the piano to convey his mood.
“If I sit down and I’m kind of feeling down or even happy or any kind of mood at all, I can express that through my piano playing,” he explained.
Often, he is in the mood for Disney. He is a big fan.
He told us, “I’ll be playing in the cafeteria and someone will come up to me, ‘Hey, do you know ‘Let It Go’ from ‘Frozen?” I’ll say, ‘Yeah, here goes.’”
As he maneuvers across campus, other students reach out to help.
But he says he does sometimes get sad.
“I’ve been able to keep my head high even with all the challenges,” said Andrew. “Everyone can have their bad days and everything like that. But I think overall for me, even on those bad days, I can still sort of brush myself off and say, ‘Hey look, you’ve made it this far man. You’re going to do well. You’re going to finish up strong. Just keep going.’”
— By Beth Parker, Fox 5 DC
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION OF Fox 5 DC
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