Local musician’s talent debuted on new CD
Mei-Ling Felten struggles to come up with anything when asked by a prying reporter to reveal something interesting about herself. But all she has to do is pull out her violin or sit in front of a piano and you know there is something special about her.
In fact, there is actually little about this diminutive 25-year old from rural Cashton that isn’t interesting.
Mei-Ling is an accomplished violinist and pianist, having played on tour with Michael Martin Murphey, best known for his hit “Wild Fire”.
That by itself is remarkable enough, however, the fact that she was born in Taipei, Taiwan 29 weeks premature and became blind as a result of doctors giving her too much oxygen, gives all her other achievements a whole different perspective.
At the age of two, Mei-Ling came from Taipei to an only slightly less populated farm outside of Cashton, where her adoptive parents, Ron and Carol Felten, were already raising 16 adopted children, most with special needs of their own.
“She was very blessed to be placed in a home with a piano,” said Ron, a self-employed CPA who along with Carol helped found the Living Waters Bible Camp between Cashton and Westby.
He recalled how at the age of five, Mei-Ling would come home from church, sit in front of the piano and start plunking on the keys, figuring out the music she heard at the day’s service.
That’s when the Feltons knew they’d better get Mei-Ling piano lessons. From there, Ron credits a higher power for helping shape his daughter’s talent.
“The Lord brought people into our lives who did things we couldn’t have done with her,” he said.
As it happened, Mei-Ling’s first piano teacher, Chris Jenkins, a concert violinist, moved back to Viroqua after having been away for a period of time, just as the Feltons were looking for someone to give their six-year old daughter music lessons.
Jenkins taught her student both piano and violin by recording the lessons, since Mei-Ling obviously couldn’t see to read music. To this day, Mei-Ling plays by memory.
While she attended the Cornerstone Christian Academy in Viroqua, from which she eventually graduated, she played for three years with the La Crosse Youth Symphony.
She also played with a group of 20 young musicians led by a couple from Viroqua, one of whom was a student of famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
After graduating from Cornerstone, Mei-Ling attended McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in music performance.
Her first taste of the limelight was around Thanksgiving 2012, when she played with Michael Martin Murphey on his Cowboy Christmas Tour. She got to know Murphey through his stepdaughters, who attended Cornerstone with her.
Mei-Ling, who Murphey called the “darling of the show”, was gone four weeks on the tour with performances in Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Missouri. She repeated the tour in 2013, and was invited back in 2014, but had to decline when she was unable find someone to assist her on the tour.
Now Mei-Ling is concentrating on her own music.
“My biggest priority was my first CD that just came out, ‘Hymns from the Heart’,” she said.
The CD was released in October and is a compilation of instrumental gospel music and old hymns performed on piano and violin.
“I don’t sing on the CD, but I can sing,” said Mei-Ling with her typical modesty.
The CD is available on cdbaby.com, iTunes and Amazon, or on her website at mei-lingfelten.com. You also can check her out on YouTube.
Mei-Ling is always looking for gigs like weddings, receptions, parties or providing background music for restaurants or lounges.
“But being in a band would be fun,” she said, noting her preferences would be country or gospel.
With her credentials and dedication, Mei-Ling should have no problem accomplishing that, too.
Mei-Ling Felten of rural Cashton has been blind since birth. But what she lacks in vision, she more than makes up for in talent and determination.