His journey began on November 27, 1981 when Chris and his brother Chuck were born identical twins, in Cebu, Philippines. As a young child, Chuck showed an unusual talent in music but died of cancer before reaching his fifth birthday. During that time, Chris preferred playing with toy soldiers and matchbox cars. At the tender age of 5 ½ , just nine months after his twin brother's death, Chris, without formal training, started playing the piano, which could be considered a miracle since Chris had been blind since the age of 18 months. Soon Chris was accompanying his mother's church choir. Word of this special youngster and his gift quickly spread throughout Cebu. At the age of seven, Chris had his first concert before an audience of 700 people. Chris received the Perlas Award as the Valuable Filipino for Special Talent from The Philippines Foundation, Inc. for harnessing his gift of music and sharing his talent and skills with the community, particularly those who need inspiration to live productively despite a physical handicap.
Chris was brought to Hawaii through the Aloha Medical Mission in 1991. The mission provided Chris with reconstructive surgery and hydroxyapatite implants. These implants are artificial eyes which behave like real eyes. It was the first time that this type of surgical procedure was performed on a child. Thanks to Chris' doctor, Dr. Jorge Camara, a well-known ophthalmologist in Honolulu.
Visual impairment has not stopped him from living his life at the fullest. He served five years with the Boy Scouts of America and earned his Eagle Scout honors, the highest rank, on December 2000. He was a consistent regional winner of the National Federation of Music Clubs competition for the handicapped for five years. He won an award from Hawaii Stars in 1998, first place in the piano competition sponsored by the Morning Music Club of Hawaii in 1997, and won second place award in the State Junior High School. His gift of music has been enhanced through a scholarship from Ho`Opono, for piano lessons at the Ellen Masaki School of Music in Honolulu and at the University of Hawai`i.
As a versatile musician, he enjoys jazz, pop, classical, popular movie scores & bluegrass music. Although piano is his main instrument, he also plays mandolin, banduria, Okinawan sanshin, upright bass, ukulele, electric guitar & vibraphone.
Chris received his Bachelor’s Degree in Music in December, 2008. He finally fulfilled his promise to his mother, the late Carmencita Cerna. He is forever grateful for all his mother’s hard work and love she gave him.
In 2009, he married Celeste De Leon Cebuma and along with his guide dog, Gib, they moved to California to pursue their musical journey. They perform at several venues at Eddie V's Prime & Seafood Restaurant and Jazz Club both at La Jolla and San Diego locations, La Valencia Hotel La Jolla, The US Grant Hotel in San Diego, the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, The Westin Hotel in Los Angeles and at several local events.
Chris has performed numerous solo concerts in Hawaii, California, New York, Michigan and Chicago. Overall, he recorded 13 albums, ten of which are solo with several original compositions , two bluegrass albums with “Lonesome Otis Bluegrass Band” and his latest with his jazz trio. He travels with Lonesome Otis at Bluegrass festivals throughout Arizona, Nevada, Washington State and all over California. In 2011, he established his own band called “The Chris Cerna Trio” that he recently brought to New York at one of his concert performance last December. On weekends, he plays regularly at Saint Joseph The Worker Church where he plays the piano & his wife Celeste plays the bass & cantors. On occassion, Chris also collaborate with other artists like “Keith Ward & The Blackwood Jazz Combo” where he shares his skills on keyboard, vibraphone, mandolin & guitar .
"Chris is a regular performer at THE US GRANT HOTEL. His music is enjoyed in our lobby, lounges and ballrooms. I have had numerous opportunities to witness first-hand the professional capabilities. In his work Chris provides the most entertaining playing of the piano we have ever enjoyed at THE US GRANT. Our guest comments have been overwhelmingly positive with regards to the skill and enjoyment in listening to Chris and his associates perform. If you choose a solo act or numerous pieces Chris provides incredible music. In addition, Chris and his bands always conduct themselves in a respectful and professional way. I feel very passionate that Chris brings value to this organization and his contribution to your event would be unmatched. I strongly support this individual and his musical abilities.”
--Tom Scaramellino, Director of Operations
US GRANT HOTEL, San Diego, CA
Concert Pianist / Multi-Instrumentalist / Composer / Band Lader