Thursday, November 15, 2007

Izhak Perlman: "Sometimes You Have To Make Music With What You Got"

I read this story about Izhak Perlman elsewhere and came across it again this evening.
Several years ago the Rabbi attended a Lincoln Center Performance that featured the world renown violinist Izhak Perlman. Izhak Perlman is a man of unforgettable physical stature. Having been afflicted with polio as a child, he is unable to ambulate without metal crutches and braces. At every performance he walks out by himself on stage. The effort he exerts to do this is memorable as anyone who has ever seen him can attest. After walking to the middle of the stage and sitting on his chair, he puts down his crutches, removes the braces from his legs, folds one foot back and moves the other one forward. He then picks up his violin case and removes his violin and bow. This almost ritualized task is done hundreds of times every year in front of thousands of adoring music lovers.

The evening the Rabbi attended started out no different than any other Izhak Perlman performance. He began to play a violin concerto with the accompaniment of a full orchestra. Ten minutes into the piece, the unlikely happened. Itzhak Perlman broke one of his violin strings. Anyone going to a high school concert or children's recital has seen broken violin strings before. It's just not expected to happen At Lincoln Center and to Itzhak Perlman. The string breaking resonated throughout Alice Tully Hall. First, the audience gasped and then became quiet. Then there were quiet whispers. Would Itzhak Perlman have to put his braces back on and leave the stage to get his violin fixed?

After what seemed to be an eternity but was actually a few seconds Itzhak Perlman raised his arm to the conductor and directed him to have the orchestra continue playing. For the next forty minutes, Itzhak Perlman played his 3 string violin as few could have played a 4 string violin. He made whatever adjustments he needed to make and the outcome was a masterful performance followed by a thunderous ovation by the audience. It was truly a remarkable experience by those privileged to have seen this concert. After the applause died down, Itzhak Perlmen addressed the audience. He said, "Sometimes you have to make music with what you got."
That story is a testimony to Perlman's prodigious ability.

According to the site where I found this, this is part of a sermon given by a rabbi during his Rosh HaShannah sermon. He concludes:
After hearing this story, I thought about many of my friends on the Internet. I thought about the the people who email me and struggle each day to make do with what they have. I thought about the women I work with who suffer from chronic mental illness. I thought about the the people I work with on my job who have to work hard and make do with what they have. I thought about the challenges that all of us have every day; trying to make music with broken strings.

Sometimes life is like a symphony played with a lot of broken instruments. But if we have the courage and faith to improvise just a little bit, we can all make beautiful music!
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