Episode 15: Musicians with Grit

This is a special episode dedicated to grit.

Grit is the combination of perseverance and passion.

Grit is important if you want to be a musician. Although it can be fun to PLAY music it takes dedication and WORK to become a musician. Learn what grit looks like in the music studio here.

The artists included below are only a few of many who have had tremendous success in meeting their dreams as musicians.

A number of them have made their dreams come true despite disabilities that would have made most put their dreams aside.

Others were included below because of their innovative avenues that helped them pursue their passion to play and share the gift of music.

All of them are guaranteed to inspire!

Who would you add to this list?

Can you think of a time where someone has inspired you with their “grit?”

Can you think of a time when grit helped you achieve something you thought you never could?

Nicholas McCarthy

Born without his right hand, award-winning international pianist, Nicholas McCarthy, only began to play the piano at the late age of 14 after being inspired by a friend who played Beethoven’s “Waldstein Sonata.”

Having been told that he would never succeed as a concert pianist, Nicholas was not discouraged and went on to study at the prestigious Royal College of Music in London. His graduation in July 2012 drew press headlines around the world, being the only one-handed pianist to graduate from the Royal College of Music in its 130 year history. Learn more here.

Mandy Harvey

Mandy Harvey is an award-winning singer, songwriter and motivational speaker who has an invisible disability. A vocal music education major at Colorado State University, Mandy lost her hearing at age 18 due to a connective tissue disorder that effected her nerves and left the CSU music program. The video below explains her journey since then. Learn more here.

Read more about her experience on America’s Got Talent here.

The Five Browns

The Five Browns had to be gritty just to “fight” for practice time as FIVE siblings in one household wanting to practice everyday! All five eventually became graduates of the highly esteemed Juilliard School.

The reputation of the Five Browns (3 sisters and 2 brothers) grew while they were teenagers and at the same time they experienced hardships within their family life. They continue to share their love of music at concerts, in new albums and unique videos. Most are now married and have children. Learn more here.

The are playing an arrangement for 5 pianos of Mozart’s “Rondo Alla Turca,” a piece that was originally written for piano solo.

Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder was born in 1950, the third of six children. He was six weeks premature resulting in a condition that kept his eyes from growing properly. This caused his blindness.

When Wonder was four, his mother divorced his father and moved to Detroit with her children. By age 13, Wonder topped the Motown charts, making him the youngest artist ever to do so. The singer, songwriter, pianist and producer has won 25 grammy awards. Learn more here.

Here’s a live performance of Stevie Wonder singing and playing his own song “Superstition” which is immediately identified by it’s funky clavinet riff.

The Piano Guys

The Piano Guys are the perfect example of what it takes to build a career in music in the 21st century. They didn’t follow the ordinary path of making CD’s and hoping to play a few concerts. They developed their fan base by posting eye-catching videos on YouTube. In addition, they continually arrange hip tunes of today with the classics of centuries before and so their loyal fans crossover all styles and generations.

Nothing seems to hold them back as one of their latest goals is to create stunning videos of them playing at the seven wonders of the world. Learn more here.

In the video below you see them performing a mashup of tunes from Dave Matthews and Beethoven (can you hear “Ode to Joy?”) on the piano, in the piano, on an electric cello, with recorded loops, singing, and some whistling, too.

Ludwig van Beethoven

Beethoven’s music has been mentioned or featured in this episode so it seems appropriate to include the legend in this list of musicians with grit!

Despite becoming deaf which forced him to leave his performance career, Beethoven continued to compose. Learn more about him in this podcast.

The video below features Valentina Lisitsa playing Beethoven’s Waldstein Sonata (the one Nicholas McCarthy always wanted to play–see the story above!)

She too, is a musician with grit. When Lisitsa’s career seemed to be failing after moving to the United States, it was spectacularly reignited by a home-made DVD, shot by her husband in 2006. It showed Ms. Lisitsa playing the 24 Chopin Études. Sales of the unedited recording skyrocketed after the couple posted it on YouTube.

Valentina Lisitsa created her international fame online and has been offered many record labels and concert tours ever since.

In the scene below, you see how Beethoven felt the vibrations from the sound of the piano and was able “hear” what he was playing. You’ll also see how devastated and upset he was about losing his hearing.

Despite his deafness, some of his most beloved pieces–like the “Moonlight Sonata”–were written during this time.