Whittier 5th grader, George Muller, overcomes odds to play violin
Now donors step forward to make sure he will always have that opportunity.
Three years ago, Amy Smith and Mark Muller set out to find an instructor who could teach their son, George, how to play the violin. They knew it would be a challenge as George has an underdeveloped left hand from a birth defect - he is missing two bones from all of his fingers on his left hand. At the age of nine months, George’s parents made a difficult decision to transfers parts of his toes to his left hand. The transplants did grow, resembling something between fingers and toes, but his fingers are still too short to play the violin conventionally.
Unlike some items, a violin is not a left or right handed instrument. The bow is held in the right hand while the fingering is done by the left – thus the unique challenge facing George and his parents.
After several tries with teachers who weren’t sure how to accommodate George’s hand, Amy was thrilled to learn that her son had been accepted into MacPhail’s Pathways to Performance program at Whittier International School in Minneapolis. There they found an instructor who was willing to take on the challenge of finding a way for George to play the violin.
This person is MacPhail violin instructor Teresa Campbell. She took one of the violins, that is supplied by MacPhail for the program, and restrung it herself, backwards, so it became possible to finger with the right hand and bow with the left. She also flipped the bridge and the chin rest as well, and gave George a smaller bow which makes it easier for him to play.
“I wasn’t sure at first if this would be possible,” Campbell said, “but I was willing to give it a try. If somebody wants to play the violin, there should be no reason why they can’t. Plus it was a growing experience for me.”
George’s parents have been thrilled with the results and are very grateful to Teresa for being willing to take this on.
“I didn’t realize until later what an undertaking all this was for Teresa, but she never let on, I believe, so that George wouldn’t feel uncomfortable,” Amy said. “It has been a great experience for him, proving to himself that he can do this and continually proving he can learn more, especially when he encounters something difficult, whether it be about his hand or something else –
he can succeed with practice and persistence.”