PORTLAND, Maine — In many ways, 18-year-old Noah Carver is very much a typical teenager. He texts with friends at lightening speed. He loves speed, whether that means biking around his home on Beals Island or skiing down the steepest runs at Sugarloaf. And everything he does, he seems to do well. But don't let that fool you.
"What people see is the finished product," the Washington Academy student said. "I have done a lot of work with others, often my parents, to figure out how to do it best and in a way that looks effortless or in a way that I am able to compete or perform or do at a level of parity with my sighted peers."
We first introduced our 207 audiences to Noah, who lives in Beals Island, back in 2015, when his hard work and help from others helped him win his first ribbons in a horse show.
"Just cause I am blind doesn't mean I am different than any sighted person," he said then.
Noah believed those words then and he continues to live by them. They are words his parents taught him.
"Once we found out he was blind, we just kept living," Suzanne Carver said.
Noah was 8 months old when he was diagnosed with a genetic condition called Leber congenital amaurosis, which caused his complete blindness. The only thing Noah can see is extreme light.
"We did everything we wanted to do. We just always found a way to adapt it so that Noah could do whatever we wanted to do," Suzanne said.
From helping out on his dad's lobster boat banding lobsters, hiking all over Maine and in Nepal, river rafting in the Grand Canyon, running on the cross country team, or being on the swim team, Noah has done everything he's ever wanted to do, with the help of his parents and others.
"We just wanted him to experience life," Noah's father Buzz Carver said.
But what Noah has wanted above all else has been music.
"The joke is that I was singing in the womb," Noah laughed.
Over the years, Noah has learned how to play percussion, piano, and most recently the clarinet without relying on sheet music.
"I have been learning by ear for as long as I can remember. I would listen to recordings of the [songs] over and over and over and over," Noah explained.
But his voice has set him apart.
Of the nearly 600 student performers who apply annually to be on NPR's prestigious "From The Top" show, which features talented musicians from across the nation, only around 100 make it on the show. For singers, that acceptance rate is far less.
"[Noah is] such a remarkable young man, and his singing is angelic. His voice is particularly pure and clear," Peter Dugan, host of "From The Top" and accomplished pianist, said.
For Noah, who started listening "From The Top" when he was just a tween, being featured on the program is a dream come true.
"I would listen ... and I would say, 'These are brilliant young men and young women with incredible talent and incredible skill and incredible fortitude. I wish I could do that.'"
Not only is Noah a featured tenor singer, but he's also one of only 20 teenagers to win the Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award, winning $10,000, which he's using to purchase equipment and software to be able to print braille music which he has just started to learn how to read in the last year.
Over the years Noah has performed in several choirs including the NAfME 2022 All-National Honor Ensembles Concert Choir, the 2021 All-Eastern Honor Ensembles Mixed Choir, 2020 High School Honors Performance Series Concert Choir - at Carnegie Hall, and the 2019-2022 MMEA All State SATB Honor Choirs.
"I don't necessarily have a greater sense of hearing or a greater sense of touch or a better memory, I simply have to pay attention, I simply have to internalize and so when you have to do something versus if you have the luxury of being able to look at a score and read it, you simply exercise the more," Noah explained.
In a couple of days, Noah will graduate high school and get ready to attend one of the top music colleges in the nation, The Eastman School of Music where he'll pursue a degree in vocal performance.
His parents couldn't be any more proud, and they hope people will see past his blindness and get to know the tenacious person he is.
"I wouldn't want Noah to be any different," Buzz Carver said.
"Life will present you with what it gives you. Whatever that is, my job is to find my way to be an expressive human to be myself and thrive in a sighted world as a blind person," Noah said.
You can hear Noah Carver on Maine Public Classical at 5 p.m. Saturday or you can listen online.