Being born with a cleft palate and dental deformities couldn’t keep him from singing …

A fire that cost him both legs at age two couldn’t keep him from walking on stage …

And having experienced enough tragedy for several lifetimes couldn’t stop 21-yearl-old Juan Pineda from making the music he loves.

On Thursday night at the Green Dolphin Street club in Lincoln Park, Pineda played before a packed house to celebrate the release of his first CD “The Sound of Gratitude.”

“What I talked about in this CD is ‘thank you for the opportunities, thank you for the surgery, thank you for this love’”

Having been without his parents since age 8, Pineda’s first album is a compilation of songs he penned at Our Little Brothers and Sisters orphanage where he grew up playing guitar in El Salvador. For three years, Pineda has been traveling to Chicago for surgery on his mouth that now allows him to sing. Over that time Pineda’s host mother Marlene Byrne been there for every note.

“The music is really sort of a little bit of rock, a little bit of folk, but its very easy listening music. Even if you don’t speak Spanish, the music is beautiful.”

The CD release party marked Pineda’s first open concert with his new bandmates, with proceeds benefitting his education and orphanage.

“If I would have told you that I would have thought I’d be sitting here tonight with 260 people listening to his music three years ago I would have told you you were crazy. But it has really just blossomed and his talent is what really drives all of this.”

For Medill Reports-Chicago, this is Sean Cooley

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