When violinist Eric Wan was paralyzed from the neck down at age 18, most expected it would be the end of his musical career. It took him two years to learn how to breathe correctly; playing violin seemed virtually impossible. Yet the virtual realm ended up giving Wan an unbelievable opportunity. Against all odds, he will perform live on Tuesday at Montreal’s Place des Arts with a virtual violin, performing the 6 minute piece Johann Pachelbel’s Canon in D major.
The concert will mark the debut of the Virtual Music Instrument (VMI) that Wan helped create as an engineering graduate student at the Bloorview Research Institute at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital in Toronto. The instrument, originally conceived of as an interactive toy for youths, uses advanced technologies to translate movement into sound. The performance will also feature performances by violinist Adrian Anantawan, who was born without a right hand, and quadriplegic dancer France Geoffroy and her company Corpuscule Danse.
Wan expressed great excitement regarding his return to violin, telling the Montreal Gazette that: "this performance is a good opportunity for me to demonstrate such technology to others with severe disabilities."
A violinist and self-confessed nerd growing up, Wan became disabled during a routine measles vaccination. Doctors do not know what caused the paralysis. Yet Wan is serving as an inspiration to all who hear his story. "It’s great to see Eric able to perform at the level of symphony orchestra given his level of disability," said an engineer who worked with him. "He is very courageous, a real fighter."
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