Local teen defies all odds, finds success in music, middle school band program
Posted on 12/20/2017 1:56:00 PM.
(Seguin) -- If the sky's the limit, then 13-year-old Christian Bertling might as well be only a few feet away.

Despite being visually impaired and having already overcome a number of obstacles that most of us don't see in a lifetime, Bertling continues to add to his list of accomplishments -- the latest being selected for the All Region Band representing A.J. Briesemeister Middle School.

AJB Band Director Louie Blancarte says his tuba student successfully took part in the all region competition held recently at Johnson High School in San Antonio.

"This is Christian's third year in the band program when we tested him, we put him on sixth grade (level) because we just determined that was the best structure in terms of his face and everything like that and since he was blind, learning to play the baseline really helps refine the ears a little bit better. So for the last three years what we've been doing is anytime we get new music, we set aside time to record it for him and then Christian learns all the music by ear. So, he's been doing that for the last three years. As he's grown older, he's moved into the more advanced bands each year. So this year, there was the all region competition and what that is -- it's a competition with all the middle schools in Seguin, San Antonio, New Braunfels, Floresville, San Marcos, Lockhart. We have about 1,000 students audition and the top two to three hundred students actually earn a spot in the region band. So I recorded the music for Christian in August. He spent three months working on the music. He went in for the audition, played his music and he earned a spot in the region band and so that's what we just got doing was performing with the actual region band with the top musicians," said Blancarte.

Bertling, who has a great passion for band and music, says he is thankful to have been able to prepare for the prestigious honor.

"It was pretty good although I only had two days to work up the music so I had to learn some of it by ear at the clinics. So I had to l earn some of it by ear because I literally only had like two days to work it all out," said Bertling.

Bertling's mother Jennifer says she is proud of her son who continues to beat the odds.

"Christian has had challenges since he was born. He was a micro premie, weighed one pound six ounces which caused the blindness. Overcoming that about 18 months ago, he was in a horrible car accident in which he lost his sister, his grandmother and his best friend. He had an internal decapitation, a fracture in his spine and his left leg. The doctor said 95 percent of them (patients) with his injuries die and the other five percent paralyzed. He seems to do everything on the tenth of a percent. His music challenges are just one of many. He does robotics. He likes to build robots and program them. He's very good with technology. He can tell you a whole lot more than I can about computers, Apple iPhones," said Jennifer.

Like his mother, Bertling's father Blake says he's always realized Christian's talent for music. He says whether it was learning to play the piano in Kindergarten or learning to sing George Strait's songs at two-years-old, his son's inability to see has never hindered his ability to learn and to live a full life.

"All with no vision, he couldn't see nothing, but he can figure stuff out if you give him a toy when he was a baby -- it would take him a minute and he'd have it figured out. He's really been pretty amazing and a doctor whenever he was born said that we need to abort him, because he said he wasn't going to be a viable life form -- that he was basically not going to amount to much and he's overcome the odds and done really well. One day, I'm going to invite him to come watch him walk the stage, whenever he graduates one day," said Blake.

He adds that his son has even taught a few guys at Best Buy "stuff that they don't even know of" when it comes to Apple iPhones.

The couple jokingly says that one of his favorite pieces is the "Imperial March" from Star Wars -- a music piece that he learned within one week and a piece that they surely heard every night for almost a year.

Perhaps it’s been Tim Gerhardt, Seguin ISD's visually impaired teacher, who has been able to literally document the success and wonderful talents of the local eighth grader. Gerhardt says he has never doubted the teen's future.

"I've worked with Christian, oh my goodness, since before he was one year old. I've seen him develop into a really bright young man, who is a brail reader and game traveler and the sky is the limit for him," said Gerhardt.

Bertling no doubt has become a fixture in the Seguin ISD middle school band program. Blancarte says he couldn't be more proud of the young man who each day continues to amaze him.

"I have not done anything for Christian. The only thing that I've done is I just facilitated his growth as a musician. So like for instance, Christian said he wanted to make region band, I put him in touch with somebody for lessons. I literally did nothing more than just record the music and say you need to work on this so especially in this day and age, you hear a lot of adults kind of (put down) the youth of the nation. Christian is an example of everything that's right with the youth because throughout this entire process and the entire time he's been with the program with us, he has shown a tenacity and determination and just a sense of grit that we would all be better off if we walked away with just a little bit of that," said Blancarte.

With the fall band season wrapping up, Bertling is already preparing for the solo and ensemble contest. Bertling's interest, however, go beyond music and technology, family members say the teen also enjoys showing animals through the 4H program having received Reserved Grand Champion last year. Next month, Bertling continues that passion by planning to show rabbits in January.

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