Adrian Anantawan’s a genius. Born with only one arm, the Canadian has accomplished most things the rest of us haven’t. Now 34, the Harvard, Yale and Curtis alumnus is an acclaimed concert violinist. He’s played with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and at the White House. He’s played for the Pope and Dalai Lama too, and will soon be in Singapore for True Colours, a three-day festival that supports artists that are just like him.
To live every day with one hand is exactly the same as two. I experience the same joys, challenges, fears and love. It is the world that I’ve been born into, and I’ve accepted my body the way it is.
I don’t know if I ever considered an awakening of sorts when I realized I was different. It probably happened organically in elementary school when I started to feel more socially isolated because I looked different from my peers.
The biggest ups were my friends and family, who were there to show me what acceptance looked like. The downs were definitely being bullied in school, feeling socially isolated and not having a real sense of belonging.
My very first violin lesson was one big experiment. My teacher and I didn’t even use the bow until a month later, when I had my adaptation made. It was fun to explore something new, and I took to the violin quickly.
My style is full of emotion and emotional engagement with the piece. I fully admit I’m biased in my interpretations, but they serve to allow my own unique style and sound to emerge.
I love Itzhak Perlman. He was my favourite violinist growing up, and he also grew up with a disability.
I’d never consider myself the next Itzhak Perlman. He is who he is, and I hope that I am me. I hope that some of his teaching can be found in my playing and sound, but I am no heir to his throne. I plan to carve out my own path.
I’m always thinking of how I can better myself as a musician. It requires me to lift my mind so I only see the music, not the notes.
It’s easy for my mind to wander when I play. The challenge is to stay in the moment and understand there is nothing more important to doing something than what you’re doing second by second.
Music not only gave me a social dimension to connect with others, but it was the primary way that I was able to express my emotions and be seen for my heart, not disability.
I think Schindler’s List by John Williams defines me the most. It is the combination of suffering and hope that attracts me to the piece, and the music reveals the beauty of the human soul.
My greatest fear? That I will never reach my full potential.
True Colours will be held from 23rd to 25th March at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. Get your tickets now
Photo by the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra of Hong Kong