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Oxnard music prodigy loses instruments to burglar

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© Eric Parsons/The Star
In this file photo, Dan Flowers (left) enjoys an impromptu electric organ performance by his daughter Rachel in their Oxnard home © Eric Parsons/The Star
When burglars broke into an Oxnard home and stole musical instruments on Sunday, they didn’t take them from a run-of-the-mill musician but from someone so gifted that her talents surpass many of us mere mortals.

Rachel Flowers began playing the piano at 2 years of age.

In January, the 17-year-old took first place in the fifth annual Student Jazz Festival with a stunning rendition on the piano of John Coltrane’s “Naima.” She has played with such greats as Cuban jazz trumpeter and pianist Arturo Sandoval.

Burglars took two flutes, an alto saxophone, a cello and a laptop computer belonging to Rachel. They also stole a video gaming console, a silverware chest, a pair of expensive headphones, a digital camera, some music boxes, and a few other odds and ends, said the teen’s mother, Jeanie Flowers.

“We’re hoping we can get donations to help replace what was taken,” the mother said by telephone, adding that one of the flutes alone cost an estimated $2,500. In all, she estimates burglars took about $8,000 worth of items.

“None of it was insured,” she said.

Rachel’s stunning abilities as a musician have already been featured on CBS’s “60 Minutes.”

She was born 15 weeks early, making her a severely premature baby, her mother said.

At birth, she only weighed 1 pound, 5 ounces.

She spent the first three months at Children’s Hospital in San Diego.

Just before being discharged, she was diagnosed with retinopathy of prematurity. Despite numerous eye operations, she was left blind for life.

“I believe that God never takes anything away without putting something else in its place,” her mother later wrote, adding that Rachel turned out to be a “miracle baby.”

What made her so were her astounding musical talents, which her mother believes are a gift from God.

Rachel’s mother and her father, Dan, found it hard to interact with their baby daughter while she was in the hospital, except for music. They learned that music, set to the sound of a heartbeat and the sound of water, soothed the baby, calming her.

By the age of 2, Rachel was playing the piano.

Next, she learned the flute. In addition to these instruments, today she also plays the saxophone, the organ and the harmonica.

“Anything you give her, she will play,” her mother said.

Her mother credits her daughter’s amazing musical abilities in part to her being blind. She is not distracted by all of the things that people with sight are, the mother said.

“She is very focused and really listens,” she said.

Rachel took the theft of her musical instruments somewhat philosophically on Wednesday, saying the theft will in no way hold her back from her dreams.

Still, she said it would be nice if the instruments could at least be recovered.

Lisa Brown, the director of testing and public relations for the Oxnard Union High School District, said there already has been quite a bit of interest shown by numerous people wanting to donate an instrument or something else to Rachel and her family.

For more information on how to contribute, email RachelFlowersAngels@gmail.com. Items can also be donated to: Vision Office, Rio Mesa High School, 545 Central Ave., Oxnard, CA 93036, or calling 278-5540.

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