Deaf Wyandotte teen a standout trumpet player, starts Detroit Salsa business

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A Wyandotte teenager is not letting his disability hold him back.

"I play the trumpet because I forgot to turn in a permission slip to play percussion in fifth grade," said Finn Gomez.

He jokes around, but his musical talent is nothing to laugh at. He started playing the trumpet in 5th grade and is now playing in five different ensembles, including The Detroit Symphony Orchestra Civic Youth Band.

And when you listen to his music, you would never know Finn was born deaf.

"About 2 or 3, we noticed a terrible speech issue," said his mother Jennifer Herbert. "He was a twin, so they could understand each other but I couldn't understand anybody. So I questioned the doctor and nothing was really done."

Doctors didn't diagnose Finn's hearing loss until he was in 2nd grade, but he didn't let that hold him back.

"He started out playing the trumpet and he learned very quickly, and sometimes I attributed to the hearing loss, that he had to try a little harder, or he had to work a little harder at it," Herbert said. "But he has always enjoyed music."

When he got a little older, Finn started using Phonak Marvel hearing aids, which some describe as a game changer. It can improve speech understanding by 60 percent.  

"Without them I wouldn't be able to hear individual conversations with a group, I couldn't hear a speaker above a bunch of people, it would be really hard to understand what is going on around me," he said.

Finn has become such an advocate; he now works on the Phonak Teen Advisory Board. If he didn't have enough on his plate, in his spare time, Finn is an entrepreneur.

"Salsa is just something that everyone loves, no matter what," he said. "If they taste it they will eat the whole can." 

What started as a class project has now become a booming business. The Roosevelt High School student created the Detroit Salsa Company, using his grandma's original family recipe.

"I talked to my grandma and she was okay with it," Finn said. "My recipe's actually from the 1930s in Corktown. My great-grandmother was a cook; she would cook for all the immigrants who came up to work. And those recipes were passed through the family and now to me," he said.

Detroit Salsa Company is sold in 10 stores and they deliver at least 100 products a week. Finn and his dad cook and package the salsa on the weekend and he handles all of the online advertising.

All of this and he is still excelling in school and in music. Mark D'Angelo has been directing Finn for the last four years.

"Finn plays well, he is a bright student and a great musician," D'Angelo said. "But in term of overcoming obstacles, I haven't really seen many students rise to the challenges he's had to face and done better."

And if this is Finn at 16, one can only imagine what the future holds for him.

"He is a determined kid," his mother said. "That's the best word. And if you challenge him at something he'll do it, so we don't tell him he can't do anything because he will do it."

ONLINE: Check out the Detroit Salsa Company's Facebook page here.