skip navigation | accessibility
The Kennedy Center

Artists Featured in Book

Mary Kathy Dial

Photo of Mary Kathy Dial

Kathy Dial's parents were told that she wouldn't live longer than two years. That is the usual medical prognosis that follows the birth of a child with hydrocephalus, ataxic cerebral palsy, and Dandy Walker Syndrome, a condition marked by the absence of a cerebellum. But she is now in high school, can read, do arithmetic, and communicate with her music.

Pat Dial, Kathy's mother, believes that music and singing made the difference. During the first year Kathy was in intensive care, Pat says, "I noticed when I sang that she would quiet down. She had these IVs and all this stuff keeping her alive, so she was not a happy camper...the music seemed to soothe her.

Soon she was singing along with me. She would hum the songs back, she'd just say 'ditty ditty da' over and over again...I knew there was hope...I realized that music would be a lifesaver for her. If it was something that eased the pain and got her attention, then I might be able to actually educate her through music...She begain speaking at 2 1/2 years and soon learned every song and never forgot it."

Pat was involved with VSA arts Louisiana even before Kathy was born. Through VSA arts, Kathy got exposure to the world outside of her family and to performing. Her enthusiasm led to many performances at schools, churches, and even for President Bush. It also helped her self-esteem and self-confidence. Since becoming a teenager, Kathy has been less interested in publicly performing, but she still continues her interest in music and singing in private. She also volunteers by entertaining once a week at a nursing home as part of a work-study program.