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Olson: Local pianist perseveres

NIU piano student Yao Lin, known as Lina around DeKalb, feared she would not be able to play piano again after she broke her left wrist in 2009. But after two surgeries and work in rehab, she has continued to play and was one of the winners of  the NIU Concerto Competition in October.
NIU piano student Yao Lin, known as Lina around DeKalb, feared she would not be able to play piano again after she broke her left wrist in 2009. But after two surgeries and work in rehab, she has continued to play and was one of the winners of the NIU Concerto Competition in October.

Yao Lin left a conservatory in Odessa, Ukraine, where she had been studying piano in 2009 and traveled more than 5,000 miles to DeKalb.

Lin, 25, whose friends around DeKalb call her Lina, was only a couple of months into her stay when she suffered an injury that threatened to rob her of her lifelong passion.

On an icy day in December 2009, Lina was riding a bicycle when she hit some ice, fell and broke her left wrist. The father of her host family, Paul Meier, took her to the emergency room at Kishwaukee Community Hospital, where she met Dr. Robert Swartz, a hand surgeon with Sycamore-based Midwest Orthopaedic Institute, who operated on her wrist the next day.

“I was really worried, and I cried a lot,” Lina said. “I remember I just asked Dr. Swartz if I could still play the piano.”

Swartz told her the chances were good. He put a metal plate and seven screws in her wrist.

“I was very lucky to have Dr. Swartz to have the surgery,” she said.

For two months, her hand was in a cast. For the first time since she was 8 years old, Lina couldn’t play piano. It was like losing her best friend.

Lina, who is also the keyboardist at the Evangelical Free Church of Sycamore-DeKalb, said she promised God that if she was able to play piano again, she would use her music to serve him and others.

“After two months he took off my cast and I started to get physical therapy, “ she said. “My therapist told me that the best therapy will be practicing the piano, so I practiced very hard. “

It was difficult to play with the plate and screws in her wrist. But six months after the initial procedure, Swartz removed the metal, and Lina said her wrist was as good as new.

Since then, she’s gone on to compete and finally to become one of four winners in the 2012 Concerto Competition at NIU in October.

NIU professor of piano and chamber music Bill Goldenberg praised his student’s perseverance.

“One thing is true, that she never gives up,” Goldenberg said. “She has entered the concerto competition, she tried before in previous years and didn’t win, but she kept trying and now she won.”

Lina’s concerto contest victory means she will be one of the musicians performing at the NIU Philharmonic concert at 8 p.m. Wednesday at NIU’s Boutell Memorial Concert Hall, 550 Lucinda Ave., in DeKalb. Admission is free to the public.

Lina will be performing a composition by Camille Saint-Saens under the direction of Lucia Matos. If you can’t make it to the concert hall, you can also watch online at

Lina expects to complete her piano study in May. Although her parents are back in Beijing, she says she likes DeKalb and plans to stay awhile.

“People here, they are very friendly,” she said. “Most of my friends, they are Christian so they are very nice, they are encouraging me.

“I love being here.”


TV interest: There’s been a lot of interest in the people around our little corner of the world from national TV outlets lately.

Within the past couple of weeks, I’ve spoken with representatives from CBS’s “48 hours” and CNN, both of whom are working on stories about Jack D. McCullough’s conviction in the 1957 killing of Maria Ridulph.

The 48 Hours story has a tentative air date of March 1, I’ve been told.

I also heard this week from a representative of MTV, which is planning a feature on the Quimby brothers for its documentary series “True Life.” All four of the Quimby brothers have been standouts on the Hiawatha High School football team. Robert Quimby graduated in 2000, Shane Quimby graduated in 2002, Jace Quimby graduated in 2010, and Dakotah Quimby is to graduate this year.

We’ll pass on more info as we get it.


Introverts and extroverts: I picked up a book this week called “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Won’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain. I’d first heard about the book at the DeKalb Leadership Academy, of which I am a class member this year.

I’m an extroverted person, and I married my opposite.

I thrive on socialization and interacting with people. Aside from a week or two in college, I have never lived alone. I grew up in a home with a TV in every room. They were usually on even if no one was watching.

I’ve probably annoyed more than one of my introverted coworkers over the years.

My wife is perfectly happy to be alone. She enjoys quiet, although living with me she doesn’t get it very often. She’s not a recluse or anything, but interacting with others is not always her top priority.

The basic premise of the book is that American society embraces characteristics of extroverts. We are told that successful people are bold, they take risks, they are comfortable in the spotlight.

Introverted people often lack these traits. Introverts are more likely to listen and seek to understand what’s being said, rather than wait for their turn to talk. They are thinkers. Their conversations are generally about bigger issues rather than small talk.

Introverts’ power isn’t as in your face, but it is real and needed in our society. As Cain points out in her book, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was clearly an extrovert, but it was the introverted Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat on a bus in Birmingham, Ala. City bus that became a landmark event in the Civil Rights movement.

I also know from experience that introverts can disarm you in an argument just by being who they are.

I’ve started to see the personality differences in my daughters, too. The extrovert is always seeking to perform. She wants to interact with whoever is in the room when she walks into it. She’ll work on any group task with no problem, but has to be forced to sit at her desk and work alone.

The introvert plays by herself for long stretches of time, even when there are other people around she could be playing with. She’s not anti-social, but it’s clear sometimes she likes to be alone.

But even though the introvert is the younger one, she’s also the one asking the tough questions like: “Where do babies come from?”

That’s when I try to get her to ponder something else.

• Eric Olson is editor of the Daily Chronicle. Reach him at 815-756-4841, ext. 2257, email, or follow him on Twitter @DC_Editor.

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