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Gaylesville pianist Steele taught herself to play after going blindcomment (0)

January 9, 2014

By Anna Keller

Gaylesville pianist Steele taught herself to play after going blind

For a church pianist to lose her vision and continue playing the piano each week for the congregation would be quite a notable scenario. But Faye Steele’s story is even more impressive. It wasn’t until after losing her sight in her late 20s that she learned to play the piano and has been playing for her church for the past 35 years. 

In 1976, Steele experienced a negative reaction to a medication that put her into a coma, and when she awoke she found she’d lost her sight. Her two children were young at that time, and her third child was born four years after Steele went blind. When it came to her children, Steele made it a point to have them all take piano lessons — something she’d never had herself despite a love for music.

“So all three of the kids got music lessons and I listened closely,” she recalled. “The teachers came to the house and I paid attention to the lessons and started playing by ear.” 

Now more than three decades since learning to play, she knows most hymns by their hymnal page numbers alone. The choir will call out the hymn number, then someone will sing the first few words of the song, and they go from there.

“Everyone in the church considers her to be a marvel and blessed,” said Rob Steele, Faye’s husband and pastor of Unity Baptist Church, Gaylesville, in Lookout Mountain Baptist Association. “Everyone agrees that the abilities she has are God-given. She’s an inspiration to everyone who’s in the church.”

One of Faye Steele’s favorite things about playing the piano for church services is when her son, Danny, accompanies her on his guitar — something that happens regularly. Danny and his wife, Erica, also attend Unity Baptist. 

As far as musical styles go, she prefers hymns and classic gospel music rather than more contemporary tunes.

In addition to playing piano for the church, Faye Steele keeps busy teaching Sunday School as well as helping her husband with bookkeeping and other office-related tasks. 

“She’s an individual with determination,” Rob Steele said. “A lot of people would have sat down and given up, but she had the determination to keep pushing forward. And she’ll always have my admiration.”

Erica Steele described her mother-in-law as a remarkably independent person (she cooks, cleans, quilts and reads in braille) and someone who is always looking for ways to help others. “Anytime anyone needs help she does everything she can to help them,” Erica Steele said. “She really puts their needs before hers.”

As for Faye Steele, she said her independence comes from her knowing that she just had to keep living and keep doing the things she loved to help her family and others.

“When I woke up (from the coma in 1976) and couldn’t see, I was in a different world,” she said. “But there’s no place for me to quit. God’s done too much for me. Sometimes it’s been hard, but He’s always been with me.”

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