Adrian Anantawan: The Single-Handed Violinist

A New Maestro
Travel back in time to November 2005 and sit yourself among the audience in a theater. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra is about to play the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D Major. Op. 35. You hear a that a talented new violinist will be taking the lead, where this will be his first solo debut. The musicians take their place, violins & cellos at the ready. Standing on a raised platform is the conductor, ready to assume control. Only one other person is standing. A young man with a violin tucked in, who must be the soloist, ready to play. The music starts and you close your eyes to enjoy the music better. This new violinist, you notice, has remarkable talent. Just to get a better look at him, you open your eyes. You begin to notice that the bow arm of this man has a cast on it. Later you realize that this man is not holding the bow with his fingers.

Because he doesn’t have any.



He Shares His Story With TED
Adrian was born without a right hand. While he was a fetus the umbilical cord was tied around his right hand, preventing it from growing properly. In Grade 5, when he was nine his music teacher introduced the class to the recorder. Because of his single hand he found it difficult to play it. After some discussions during a parents’ meeting, he tried out the trumpet and drums. But both were too loud. And according to him(jokingly) “[he] had a voice only a mother could love and she didn’t even love it that much.” So singing was out of the option too. In the end, they decided on the violin. For the first six months, his playing was like “a dying cannon”, as he described it. But a little into the year & the ones that follow, with the help of teachers that guided him and close friends that supported him, his full potential has finally been reached.

Yet he holds a Masters degree in Music from Yale University since 2008. The same year he was inducted into the Terry Fox Hall Of Fame. Two years ago he performed at the White House. He represented Canada at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics Opening Ceremonies and the 2006 Athens Olympics. He has played for the Pope John Paul II, Christopher Reeve and Dalai Lama.

And he has his own documentary, The Story Behind the Notes.(via

Armed with an adaptive device he calls a “spatula”, Adrian sweeps the audience with his playing with at TED(via poptech)

“…the violin is a piece of 16th century technology, that’s used to extend the range of the human voice. And I also think that it serves to extend the range of the human soul.”-Adrian Anantawan in TED Talent Search

Even against impossible odds, you can achieve your goals through willpower, persistence and the right guidance & support. Now you have little excuse to not get moving!

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