Deaf Woman Receives Graduate Degree in Music Composition

Richmond, Virginia-AP -- With the deaf musical immortal Beethoven as her inspiration, a deaf woman has scored a master's degree in music composition.

Tammie Willis, who lost all hearing after being beaten by a robber, has become the first deaf student ever to earn a music degree from Virginia Commonwealth University.

After considering but then rejecting suicide, Willis started following the life of Beethoven and taught herself to play a variety of musical instruments.

As part of her master's program, she composed a four-movement, 12-person percussion ensemble piece.

The trick, says Willis, is to find a bridge between what a hearing person understands and her imagination. She can't discern melody, but builds on her sense of rhythm with her teachers helping her resolve issues of dissonance and consonance.

Willis intends to pursue doctorates in higher education and music theory.

And she plans to continue composing, saying it gives her a chance to pursue her "imagination for sound."

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