Mon. Sep 25th, 2023

Adrian Anantawan, a Violinist Born without a Right Hand Man

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Initially, I did not intend to write about this man.

In the middle of the internet browsing process in search of materials for college assignments, I know his name: Adrian Anantawan. A video link of one of his performances appears on a website about the rehabilitation of people with physical disabilities.

The figure of a mixture of Thai and Chinese descent was born without a right hand. His mother’s name was Maria Anantawan, a Hong Kong woman who came to Canada in 1971. Her father was named Songsak Anantawan, who came from Thailand to Canada in 1975. They had a printing business in Mississauga, Ontario, where they lived.

Adrian’s disability was alleged because when he was still in his umbilical cord ‘located in an unnecessary place and time’ which affected, he was born without a right hand. Adrian also only spoke when he was 4 years old. But his persistent character has been seen since he was a toddler. When he was 3 years old, his mother had seen Adrian try to cut his nails with a nail clipper. With his stump (the remaining arm part), he pressed the nail clipper to the floor while passing his fingernail between 2 nail clippers. Since then, his mother has always tried to help him cut his nails. Only a short time ago, Adrian was able to cut his nails properly, precisely when he toured with the National Youth Orchestra of Canada.

Adrian has two siblings who are also talented in music. On this basis, Adrian’s parents felt the need to teach their children about music. So the mother also brought a violin teacher in private. Their hunch is proven. Peggy McGuire, the private tutor, was surprised to see Adrian playing violin strings in pizzicato with his left hand during the inaugural meeting. But both Adrian and his parents and teachers were not aware that the violin was his way of life.

The mother is aware that her son’s musical talent will not develop without prosthetic arms. He contacted the government. But unfortunately, the government only assists in primary functional prosthetic hands that can only be used for standard daily activities. For a recreational prosthesis that can be used for swimming, climbing, and other outdoor activities, Adrian’s parents have to spend much more on their own.

Adrian’s mother finally contacted World War Amps, a non-profit organization found by veterans of World War I, hoping that her son would get a more multifunctional prosthetic arm. His efforts bore fruit. Adrian got a fake arm that could be used for primary and recreational activities. War Amps of Canada donated an electrically controlled my prosthesis, aka fake arm with muscle contraction for 15 thousand USD.

With his new hand, Adrian also learned to play the piano at the Royal Conservatory of Music. But he only felt at home until grade 5 because the school did not allow repertoire with his left hand. That’s when Adrian found a passion for the violin. Adrian, who was born in 1983, started playing violin since he was 9 years old, armed with his prosthesis. Adrian is an active child. When he was in high school, he had even been a pitcher on his school baseball team. But his achievements in academics and sports were not very satisfying. He also decided to go deeper into the violin.

His efforts at learning the violin were also full of twists and turns. His family is not a rich family despite having his own business. Adrian must have his violin to explore the violin. Eventually, he got a loan from Angela Fusco, daughter of the owner of an orchestra group who was also a violinist, Frank Fusco. The price of the violin is around 30 thousand USD, and that is only for the violin. He bought the strings separately for 2500 USD. Adrian gets a repair discount for his violin as well as an interest-free installation fee from Geo Heinl & Co., a violin dealer in Toronto. The owner, Ric Heinl, said that the relief was due to Adrian’s talent and not because he was disabled. The following excerpts from the words of Ric Heinl:

“It’s not because of the handicap when you have talent there, you all give a little bit.”

Adrian’s meeting with Stanley Solomon at the Heinl store in an afternoon was a bright start to Adrian’s career. Solomon, who likes playing golf, turns out to be a retired TSO music school principal and violinist. He invited Adrian to appear at a fundraising event for TSO. Adrian did not mind despite appearing without payment. It was in the show that turned out to amaze the audience that Solomon contacted Aaron Rosand, his best friend, who was also the head of one of the departments at Curtis music school. Rosand offers audition opportunities. If Adrian meets the qualifications, he gets the chance to appear in public representing the institution while studying violin at Curtis.

Adrian did not waste this golden opportunity. On the day of the audition, he had the wrong address and arrived late. But this man is not afraid. He only prayed even if he did not qualify at that time, and he hoped that next year, he could escape. Apparently, God saw his sincerity. Instead of being denounced as expected, the judges instead praised the violin game. At that time, he played some compositions by Paganini, Mozart, and Bach.

His persistence in learning the sweet fruit violin. He began his inaugural tour at the Canadian National Youth Orchestra in 1999 and 2000. He obtained his bachelor’s degree from the Curtis Institute of Music in 2001 with a full scholarship from the university located in Philadelphia. His unyielding business seemed to be influenced by the belief that he never considered himself a person with a disability.

“I don’t believe in disabilities. I see barriers. Barriers can always be overcome. The only disability is not having the will to overcome these challenges in life.”

He has worked with famous artists such as Pamela Frank, Joseph Silverstein, and members of the Guarnerius Quartet. In addition, he also worked at Ottawa with Pinchas Zukerman and Itzhak Perlman on Shelter Island, Sarasota, and New York.

Because of his outstanding achievements in music with his disabilities, he was asked to be a key supporter for War Amps of Canada and Bloorview Kids Rehab Center. He even appeared in front of Pope John Paul II and became a Canadian representative in the Canada Cultural Showcase at the Summer Games in Athens, Greece, in 2004. Another appearance was during the opening of Vancouver Paralympic in 2010. He appeared in the White House accompanied by orchestra groups such as Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Nova Scotia Symphony Orchestra, Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra, Montreal Chamber Orchestra, McGill Chamber Orchestras, Mississauga Symphony Orchestra, and National Academy Orchestra.

His story was even made a documentary film titled “Adrian Anantawan: The Story Behind the Notes,” whose premiere was broadcast by CBC on June 30 and February 15, 2009, by Bravo television station. The film was included in the category of the documentary film “top pick of the week.” Adrian’s appearance was praised as “being touched by greatness.” He even got his master’s degree from Yale University.

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