The sound of music

Musician overcomes hearing loss to fulfill his dreams

Jacob-Kopcienski-Success-Story

By Elizabeth Cope

A broken reed or sticky keys are the variables most saxophonists face during live performance.

But living with hearing loss has prepared music education major Jacob Kopcienski to overcome to a wider range of variables during his own performances: even the batteries going dead in his hearing aids. The disability hasn't stopped him from collecting awards as a top student in the BGSU College of Musical Arts.

Diagnosed at age four with moderate-severe hearing loss, Kopcienski has focused on finding solutions rather than on his obstacles. He says the key is to face limitations, accept them and adapt, and that includes developing coping strategies and problem solving skills in order to achieve goals.

"For me, hearing is not a constant thing, he said. "Yes, it's a deficiency and it's challenging, but I have so much control over it that I don't even notice it. It's something I don't even think about. Most people go through their lives only hearing one way, and not noticing a change in their hearing, but for me, mine can change throughout the day."

One of his adaptations is to have different programs for his hearing aides - one for direct conversation, one for general circumstances, and one for performing. Educators across the college agree, Kopcienski has never asked for special treatment or consideration. He just keeps smiling and pressing while encouraging others as he goes.

Kopcienski's accomplishments during his four years at BGSU are impressive by any measure, but he resists viewing his success against the backdrop of his impairment.

"Jacob's hearing is a very minor issue in his working life," said Elaine Colprit, chair of the Department of Music Education. "He has never been defined by his disability. If Jacob didn't tell you, you'd never know, and it certainly has not prevented him from being one of our top students."

Along with being a top student, Kopcienski has been honored with the Music Presser Award, won BGSU Competitions in Music Performance in 2011, and has performed in prestigious university ensembles, including the Borealis Saxophone Quartet, and was a first place winner of the BGSU Chamber Music Competition in 2010. He is also a student teacher with the band program at Perrysburg High School.

He hopes to study next year in France with the world-famous saxophonist Jean-Michel Goury, a member of the prominent XASAX Quartet and is a faculty member at the Conservatoire National de Musique de Boulogne-Billancourt in Paris.

That sounds like sweet music.