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The Byron Janis Story

Byron Janis is one of the greatest American pianists of all time and, indeed, has been recognized as one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century. By all accounts, at every turn, his career should have ended. Instead he rose to every challenge and became an American legend. His is a miraculous and inspiring story, unknown to most.

In the public eye he had already been a child prodigy, when he made his public debut in Pittsburgh's Carnegie Hall at the age of 9. At 10, a freak accident took away entirely the sensation of his left pinky. He lost the use of the distal joint in that finger, and the nerves and tendons had to be cut.

He figured out new fingering in order to play. "I managed to set my hand, and I used my eye to see where my fingers were going because I could not feel notes," he said. "I got into the habit, like the way a blind man uses his stick to feel what he cannot see, I used my eye. I learned at that age what the mind could do if you really had control and powerful positive thinking. I could not work for too long a time, because my arm tightened, so I learned early to save myself."

Janis struggled with bursitis and arthritis throughout his 70 year long career as one of the great pianists on the world stage. Today, at 82, he is an inspiration for all those who have had to overcome hurdles in life. This film is dedicated to them.

For more information on the program contact:
WQED Station Relations
Lisa Przyborski