78 years old Norman Malone, a high school choral instructor, dreamed of being a pianist since the age of 5. He had been practicing for more than 60 years and if you ask his students, all of them will confirm he’s a really awesome teacher. However, until recently, none of them knew of his real musical talent.
One of Norman’s neighbors recently outed him to a local Chicago newspaper’s jazz critic and that led to Norman’s first public concert. Norman finally became an accomplished pianist — who plays with one hand.
Norman lost his right hand while he was only ten years old. His father was very aggressive and the whole family lived in fear. The situation was so bad that Norman’s mother often asked him to stay awake during the nights so he could protect his younger brothers in case of the emergency. One night, he didn’t make it and he fell asleep. Next day, he and his brothers awoke in the hospital. Their father drugged their mother and attacked the children with a hammer. All of them had sustained severe head injuries and were partially paralyzed. It took them years to regain walking abilities and Norman never regained the use of his right hand.
But, Norman never stopped playing his piano. Without his right hand he had to modify his entire life and his way of practicing, but he never quit.
His son, Mark, said that, “He could have given up the instrument, and it would have been the easier to give up the instrument, but I think it just shows his strength. He has a lot of inner strength… If you love something, you’re going to find a way.” And Norman definitely found a way. He discovered scores upon scores of music that had been modified to be played with a single hand. Mark recalled watching his father practice for hours and hours, sometimes frustrated that his body could not achieve the results that he wanted, but he never gave up.
His passion pulled him through as he developed more and more skill. Eventually, he was able to gracefully cascade his fingers across the porcelain keys at an impossible pace. Norman told the Chicago Tribune about his struggles and one specific conversation he had with himself. He asked himself, “Why do you play? Is it for the recognition or the fame or is it something you really want to do?” To which he had an answer ready, “Well I might never be recognized as a pianist, but it never stopped me from playing.”