There is a story about the famous violinist Itzhak Perlman that illustrates overcoming challenges, honing your talent, inspiring, and teaching others. He first became interested in the violin after hearing a classical music performance on the radio. At the age of three, he was denied entrance to the Shulamit Conservatory for being too small to hold a violin. He instead taught himself how to play the instrument using a toy fiddle. He contracted polio at the age of four and learned to walk with crutches. This did not stop him from discovering his talents. He continued teaching himself until he was old enough to study at the Shulamit Conservatory and at the Academy of Music, where he gave his first recital at age 10. Getting on stage was no small feat for him, but that did not stop him. He persevered!
Many years later Perlman was in New York to give a concert now with leg braces on both legs and crutches. He crossed the stage slowly until he reached the chair, seated himself, and signaled to the conductor to begin.
No sooner had he finished the first few bars then one of the strings on his violin snapped, echoing loudly through the theatre like a gunshot. Perlman was at the beginning of the piece and it would have been reasonable to bring the concert to a halt while he replaced the string to begin again. But that’s not what he did. He waited a moment and signaled the conductor to pick up just where they had left off.
Perlman had only three strings on which to play his soloist part. He was able to find some of the missing notes on adjoining strings, but where that wasn’t possible, he had to spontaneously reorganize the music so that it all still held together.
He played with passion and artistry, instinctively rearranging the symphony right through to the end. When he finally rested his bow, the audience sat for a moment in stunned silence. Then, rising to their feet, they gave a standing ovation. Each person in the audience knew they had beheld an extraordinary display of human skill and ingenuity. This kind of talent took years of perseverance to develop.
Perlman raised his bow to signal for quiet. “You know,” he said, “sometimes it is the artist’s task to find out how much beautiful music you can still make with what you have left.” What a sense of gratitude!
We have to wonder, was he speaking of his violin strings or his crippled body?
Perlman is a master artist and teacher. He did not allow circumstances to derail his ambition. He mastered his talents finding his gift at an early age. That is gratitude for his ability to play and not dwelling on his need for braces and crutches walking.
As a teacher, Perlman reveals, “For me one of the great things about teaching is not so much what to say but to know what not to say. If somebody is talented, they contain a certain kind of magic, and that magic is very precious, because it is on very precarious ground. It’s like a very fine leaf that if you shake it too much, it breaks. You have to let the branch grow until it becomes strong enough that if you shake it, it’s won’t break.”
Be grateful for your health, your family, your talents, and the gift of life. Use your talents, skills, and abilities to influence others for good.