Did polio have anything to do with Itzhak Perlman’s musical talent?

Itsaac-Perlman-hqdefaultMaybe it’s because I’m blind. I’ve heard Itzhak Perlman perform on the radio and on television, but without being able to see the renowned violinist on stage, I had no idea he has a disability.

Until, that is, I heard Steve Inskeep interview Itzhak Perlman on NPR’s Morning Edition a couple weeks ago.

Itzhak Perlman contracted polio when he was 4 years old, and he’s used crutches ever since. When asked about his disability during the NPR interview, he said it has nothing to do with his performance. “I can’t walk very well, but I’m not onstage to do walking,” he told NPR’s Steve Inskeep. “I’m on the stage to play.”

I thought it was a great answer. Steve Inskeep, however, kept pushing with follow-up questions: Does it make any difference to you that you sit rather than stand during solos? Did polio limit your options, and that’s why you gravitated to playing the violin? So you’re telling me that people expected no less of you because you couldn’t walk?

I know that those of us who have disabilities are in the minority, and it’s human nature to be curious about how and why we do the things we do. But isn’t one or two questions enough? Before asking one of his many, many disability-related questions during the interview, Inskeep acknowledged that the particular one he was about to ask would be “surely an unanswerable question” and then went on to ask it anyway. “Would you have been the same musician that you are had you not been stricken with polio at a very young age?” Perlman’s answer to the surely unanswerable question was just another example of what a gracious and self-aware man he is:

“I think yes. You know, a lot of people like to think that polio was an inspiration in what I do. I think that music has to do with what kind of passion do you have. If I was destined to be a musician, it would have happened.”

So hmm. Maybe the reason I didn’t know that Itzhak Perlman had a disability has nothing to do with the fact that I can’t see him. It’s just that his disability is not the most important — or the most interesting — thing about him.


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  1. Hua Mei Lai Says:

    It is inspirational and encouraging to see and hear Itzhak Perlman playing violin so beautifully, confidently and happily. I admire his wisdom and ability to accept the disability as part of his physical body limit due to illness at young age and to focus on his talent, passion, and effort to achieve musical greatness and express his intelligence, and artistic emotion through playing violin. What a wonderful human spirit everlasting is Itzhak Perlman!

  2. Laurence Price Says:

    This would be my upmost dream concert. To see a masterful genius. I just missed his concert in Lansing,MI as I have cancer and was receiving my long chemo infusion. Unfortunately I am limited in my traveling with my treatments. I hope I can live long enough to see him perform live. All I can do is hope.

  3. set beat Says:

    He has really a very good talent. You can get all his music for free on your iOS and Android devices using setbeat app. You can download it on both Android and iOS devices.

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