When Dr. Suzuki said “Every Child” he meant it.
He didn’t mean:
Well …”If they don’t have any learning disabilities. or If he has good vision. or If she can hear normally. or If she has fingers. or If he has both arms.”
While I was in Japan one of the students who impressed me most was a teenage girl who played the violin on her right shoulder because she was missing fingers on her left hand. It was not a problem for her to hold a bow with this hand while she played Beethoven’s Spring Sonata for a recital.
More than 15 years later I am teaching violin at a non-profit in Santa Ana which serves special needs and underserved children. My classes at the Orange County Children’s Therapeutic Arts Center are inclusive of children who are sometimes facing challenges. But up to this point none of them were missing any limbs.
When one of my newest students approached me about studying the violin without a right forearm I couldn’t bring myself to say no. The fact that he was missing part of his arm was not the biggest obstacle I expected to be challenged with. I kept him in the PreTwinkle Violin class and started working with him. I thought, If we can put a man on the moon surely there is a way we can give this child full access to a musical instrument like the violin. I was willing to collaborate with any technician would be willing to assist me in adapting any prosthesis he was already using for this problem.
Well, it wasn’t that simple. Expect to make a few mistakes before you find the right device for a child who is growing.
It was up to me to find some way that we could make the violin accessible to this child. So I rolled up my sleeves and went online searching everywhere I could think of. And then I started asking everyone, including my sister the Special Ed teacher. I had to work fast because this student moved through all his PreTwinkle work faster than any other student in the program. I found myself scrolling through the entire FB page of the E-Nable community who are known for creating affordable hands for children with 3D printers.
Finally, I found a technologist I already knew personally as a musician right here in OC. Embarrassed for not thinking of him sooner, I asked Gene if he could help us create a bow arm for my OCCTAC violin student so this child could hold a bow with his left hand instead of his right hand. His immediate response, I quote,
“We’re on it!”
Gene Wie not only mobilized a student team from one of his high school classes of techie students who are inspired to create solutions for children like my violin student, he is assisting me with the problems of reverse engineering a violin so my OCCTAC Suzuki Violin student can play it on his left shoulder comfortably.
To learn more about this ongoing project go the link for:
Source: limbART – Gene Wie