When bullied teenager Oliver Lin hit his lowest moment it was music – his “only friend” – which would walk him through the next 3 years.. Alone and isolated at school in Taiwan, struggling with grades and weight, the 14-year-old Oliver even considered suicide.
Now, as the confident 16-year-old finishes his GCSEs at Wycliffe College in the Cotswolds and looks forward to studying at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, he has vowed never to abandon his music.
Oliver said: “My only friend was music. When I thought about giving up as well as ending my life the music would speak to me, it was always there for me. I promised music that I would never give it up. I can’t give it up. Music touches me in a way that I cannot explain with words.”
In three years Oliver has come a long way. During his first year of study in the UK, based at Wycliffe in Gloucestershire, he has dropped three stones in weight, improved his grades and made friends for life. His year at Wycliffe has changed his life. He works out every day in the gym and weighs less than 10 stone. His marks have improved and his English has come in leaps and bounds.
“I have changed a lot. I am more organised and feel like an adult. My plan was to spend one year improving my English, then two years working on my music and then hopefully going to university.”
In September he will start his A-levels, spending a day a week studying piano at the Guildhall. It is a remarkable journey for a young man who did not discover his musical talent until the age of 13. The course of his life has been dramatically influenced by chance. Oliver first learned to play piano at the age of three while growing up in Kashong. He remembers studying music for a few years but admits that he found it boring. Then at the age of 13, he decided to sit exams for junior high. But he wasn’t optimistic.
“My grades were terrible. In Taiwan schools do not look at your talents, simply your grades. It was a good school with young people who were training to be professional musicians. It was Mission Impossible.”
His high score in the English exam saved him and he started at the school. His mother, signed him up to the basketball club. It turned out to be a music club.
“The other students were fantastic. I was the only one who couldn’t really play anything. I had to play something for the orchestra so I started to learn the trumpet.”
A few days after joining, Oliver was clearing up after class when he heard someone playing the piano nearby. “It touched my heart. I followed the sound and met the player, who became my best friend.”
The piece was Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No 1. The two boys became inseparable and Oliver’s love of music was born.
He had had little training since his childhood and so turned to Youtube to learn to play the Sonata. When his friend invited him to take part in a competition Oliver decided he would play the Sonata. He came last.
“I cried but my best friend told me not to cry and started to teach me to play. My mother also met a piano teacher in the audience and I started to have proper lessons for the first time.”
Months later, Oliver and his friend took part in a second competition. This time Oliver won. But it spelled the ending of his friendship and the beginning of his ostracization by classmates.
“Winning that competition changed everything. My best friend turned on me. For three years he bullied me and told classmates to stay clear of me. He told them not to talk to me, not to eat with me, to have nothing to do with me. It was the most painful three years I have ever had. People didn’t want to believe me and said I wouldn’t succeed at music. I wanted to shout at them and say that I would succeed but I was too afraid. I was a fat small child and they bullied me about my looks.”
But Oliver never strayed from his music. “My skills got better and I was determined to prove them wrong.”
His piano teacher recommended that Oliver continue to study abroad but for his parents and younger brother that would mean great sacrifices, sacrifices Oliver keenly feels.
He was awarded a generous scholarship to attend Wycliffe and he was determined to succeed at his new school. “My mum is my biggest hope. My goal is to get as many scholarships as I can to help and make my parents’ lives easier.”
“Oliver has an amazing natural talent for music and there is no doubt that given his dedication to the art that he will develop into an outstanding musician,” says Ed Jenkins, Director of Music, Wycliffe College. “I look forward to following what will surely be a highly successful career.”
“I will be sad to leave Wycliffe but I know my friends and I will stay in contact,” says Oliver. “I am ready to get on with my music.”