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An ear for music
L-EHS student to play at Piccolo Spoleto
Daley Jackson.JPG
Daley Jackson

A Lugoff-Elgin High School student who is profoundly deaf will play the piano in the Piccolo Spoleto festival in Charleston.

The Piccolo Spoleto Rising Stars series provides artistically talented youth with classical training with a high- profile venue “that recognizes their exceptional talent,” including 16-year-old Daley Jackson. The program is open to residents of South Carolina; Daley recently learned she is one of this year’s Rising Stars.

Although she passed a hearing test at birth, Daley and her mother refer to her deafness as a birth defect.

“The doctors said it was probably incorrect,” said Velma Jackson, Daley’s mother. “When she was 23 months we had genetic testing done. It wasn’t genetic; there was no apparent cause.”

Daley wears binaural hearing aids. She has hearing ability in her right ear, which means she can hear with just one hearing aid in her right ear and none in the left ear. She can also read lips. Daley said people often misunderstand that she needs people to speak more clearly, not more loudly. She carries a microphone to school with her each day that her teachers wear each class period. Jackson wears a boot that connects with the microphone, and can switch between hearing just the teacher and hearing the entire class.

There is no perfect environment for Daley, her mother, a teacher at Blaney Elementary School, said.

“There is no leveling the playing field, because she can’t hear certain sounds,” Jackson said. “If you can’t hear, you don’t know that you are missing something.”

Daley has one class with Margaret West, who “bridges the gap” between her and her teachers. West is a teacher for deaf and hard of hearing students within the Kershaw County School District.

“She wants us to be independent and advocate for ourselves,” Daley said.” This year I’ve pushed myself to speak up for myself. It may not be comfortable, but I have to do it. When I finish high school, I have to depend on myself.”

Daley has played the piano since second grade. She works with Becky Taffel, who is always “patient,” she said. 

Her mother said she’s tried to instill a work ethic in her daughter because “no one is going to give you anything.” Her hearing doesn’t stop her, Daley said; she still keeps going even though she has difficulties hearing.

“It inspires people. It doesn’t have to be hearing, it can be anything; just because you have a disability doesn’t mean you can’t do anything,” Daley said.

Each year she participates in the Junior Festival in Columbia. She’s received a superior rating eight years in a row and won the Fine Arts Center of Kershaw County’s Brevard Scholarship in seventh grade. Daley is currently preparing to apply for the scholarship next year. She and her mother heard about the Piccolo Spoleto series last year through the school district. Daley takes one piano lesson each Wednesday for 30 minutes and is considering participating in the marching band next year.

“Doing all of these competitions makes me feel famous,” Daley said. “As long as I have a song and I can play it, I’ll play it for someone.”

At the festival Daley will play Debussy and Valse Dramatico June 6 in Charleston’s St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church auditorium.