SOUND ADVICE: Rodney van Staden of Bellville
“Being born blind yet a living example to able-bodied people, I want my life to be an inspiration.”

So says Rodney van Staden, from Bellville South, who is a music teacher at Athlone School for the Blind and a multi-talented musician in his spare time.

Rodney, 45, is a twin and has five siblings, and is the only blind person in his family.

He says he grew up being miserable because of his disability.

He was born and raised in Prieska in the Northern Cape, where there were no suitable schools for children with special needs.

“But my parents did not give up on me gaining an education as they felt this would help me to become more independent and fully integrated into society,” says Rodney.

“They discovered the Athlone School for the Blind in Cape Town, where I went to school for the first time aged 12, and I became a boarder living in the hostel.

“I was approached by the brass band teacher to take up the saxophone. Initially I was scared because the teacher, Bob Mowday, was English-speaking and my English was very poor at the time,” he laughs.

“I decided to take up the challenge and this proved to be the best decision ever because within three months I was able to play my first solo on the saxophone.

“The saxophone opened a lot of doors for me as people started to acknowledge me with my talent. I took part in various musicals both at school and privately.”

Rodney then learnt to play the piano and was invited to perform all over South Africa.

He was 40 when he became a teacher at the school.

His teaching method includes physical contact.

“I place the student’s hands on the instrument and the keys. The student needs to feel the keys and listen to the sound it makes.”

He also teaches people with sight privately.

Rodney says he applied to study music at UCT but wasn’t accepted as there were concerns that he would not be able to cope with the course.

“When I was eventually accepted, the cost of registration prevented me from going,” he says.

Rodney completed a degree in psychology and history last year but still dreams of getting that degree in music.

“I have a dream of making my own music, I want my name on that record label and I’m definitely aiming for that goal.”

Rodney will be performing as a guest artist at Donvino’s show called #Saxyvibes3 at the Grand Arena, GrandWest, on 25 May.

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