Trophy presented to mark Paul's piano achievement

A DROMORE boy, the first child with Apert's Syndrome in Northern Ireland to complete a London College of Music Piano Examination, had his amazing achievement recognised at the recent LCM Dromore Charity Concert.

Paul Russell (10) was presented with the ‘Sonya Russell Award for Musical Achievement’ at the third annual Dromore London College of Music Exam Centre Charity Concert in Dromore High School.

Named for the college’s local representative and well-known piano tutor, Mrs. Sonya Russell, who lived in Dromore from 1996 to 2003, the trophy goes annually to the person who has achieved the most in his or her musical field by overcoming personal, difficult circumstances or disabilities.

Paul’s Apert’s Syndrome meant he was born with all of his digits completely fused together; each of his fingers had to be surgically separated, in tandem with plastic surgery.

The youngster, who has endured a series of operations on his hands, for which he has had to travel regularly to London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital, defied the odds to carry on his family’s passion for music and last year, the then nine year-old Paul, a member of the Patricia Hamilton School of Music and Performing Arts, was awarded a ‘Merit’ in his Pre-Preparatory examination, gaining 83%.

Sonya said she had watched Paul play on that day and it had brought tears to her eyes.

A miracle had taken place, she said, that enabled Paul to play the piano.

Paul’s former principal at Dromore Nursery, Mrs. Sharon Beattie, who numbers Paul’s mother Jane among her colleagues at the nursery, said at the time that the youngster’s achievement was a mark of his great determination.

“Before surgery this just wouldn’t have been an option,” she said. “Paul is an amazing wee boy who has come through an awful lot and it has shown his complete determination.

“Absolutely no allowances were made for Paul in respect of his performance; he was assessed the same as any other child.

“The only concession was that Paul had permission for his teacher to accompany him, because, while his speech is well developed it might not be completely clear to a stranger, so his teacher interpreted.”

The audience at the recent concert gave Paul a standing ovation as he received his award from Mrs. Sheila Hemming, LCM Examiner from England, but no-one was more pleased than was Paul himself; he took a lap of honour around the hall, holding up his cup for all to see, while the Saxophone Ensemble of Dromore High School Music Department Head, and compere for the evening, Mr. Victor Currie, brought the evening to a close.