Be an OVERcomer!


I get notes from folks now and then telling me that, due to physical challenges, they are thinking about packing up the dulcimer and putting it away. I can relate. I’ve told you, my vision is giving me problems … can’t seem to see the strings on my hammered dulcimer and rely mostly on muscle memory. In addition, after an accident this summer, I can’t stand to play very long at a time. Even sitting at my piano, I only last about 10-15 minutes before my back hurts too much.

Is it time to just give up? Should I pack it in? How about you? Have you ever had such thoughts?

Well, I was encouraged to keep on keepin’ on recently when I read a story about Paul Wittgenstein. Paul was born November 5, 1887, in Vienna, Austria. As a young child, his home was visited by many composers, including Johannes Brahms and Richard Strauss. Although he was one of 8 children, his parents were wealthy and well able to afford piano lessons for him. Paul studied piano for years, and gave his first public concert in 1913.

But then World War 1 broke out in 1914, and Wittgenstein was among the hundreds of thousands of Austrian males who were called into service. He saw a great deal of front-line combat, and was shot and captured. His right arm was so severely wounded that doctors were forced to amputate it.  But Paul didn’t give up. First he taught himself how to do simple tasks like wash his own dishes and sew a shirt button back on. Later he drew a charcoal outline of a keyboard on a wooden crate, and he began practicing again - to perfect his one-hand technique and eventually he performed again.

Now here’s a modern day example.

Nicholas McCarthy was born in 1989 without his right hand and but decided he wanted to learn to play the piano when he was 14. He was told that he could never succeed as a concert pianist with only one hand, but Nicholas would not be discouraged and went on to study at the prestigious Royal College of Music in London.

His graduation in July of 2012 drew press headlines around the world, being the only one-handed pianist to ever graduate from the Royal College of Music in its 130 year history. In 2015 Nicholas attained official Yamaha Artist status and today is an ambassador for the stunning Yamaha CFX Concert Grand, Nicholas’s piano of choice.

Now, after reading about such physical challenges overcome by these two extraordinary men, it makes my excuses for not sitting on the piano bench or standing at my hammered dulcimer to practice sound pretty flimsy. When I try to compare my own musical challenges with those of others, I can always find others whose issues make mine look like minor inconveniences. (To be honest, this is true regarding every trouble in my life.) My back ache or my failing sight are, simply put, just inconveniences. I can surely find ways to overcome them. What about you?

When faced with a musical challenge, begin look for a way … not a way OUT. Become an overcomer, like Paul and Nicholas, and see how far you can go.



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