by Aryo Adhianto
[VIRGINIA, DOGO, LTTW] I’m annoyed with myself. As a musician, I feel the need to have everything in advance—a fine instrument, first-rate sound system, and comfortable studio—to be able to let out all my creativity. This is not entirely wrong, but what annoyed me the most is the way my mentality goes: when I have a little, I’ll only achieve a little. I had been forgetting what I actually have and why I should be grateful for: my own hands! I could never have imagined if I’m loosing one; probably I would hide and lock myself from the world. Honestly, I don’t know if I can survive like those who were born with disabilities. While in fact, there are some of them who even go beyond surviving and inspire the world.
The 19-year-old George Dennehy is surely one of them inspirations. He was born without arms in Romania, and adopted by U.S. Family at the age of one. “It was rough in the first years of my life, but I lived.” He said in a short film of I Like Adoption. It was his new parents of Michael and Sharon Dennehy from Ashland, Virginia, who stood out for what he is. They knew that George is unique, just like any other kid in the world. They also believed that the culture they live in is practicing equal rights, where everyone has the right to earn what they want. In this case, George has shown some musical interest, so his disability shall never be an excuse.
Since then, so much has happened for him. Here is his short list: he started by taking cello lessons (yes, with his feet). He championed guitar. He is also playing with electric bass and a bit of piano. He won “Richmond’s Got Talent”. He was appearing live with his favorite band the Goo Goo Dolls. He writes music. Now he is engaged to a beautiful girl. In a few words, his life is good.
George’s story has slapped me hard in the face. Reality bites, but he bites back. But I wonder, what made him capable to do such things in the first place? Is it his disability? Is it the power of music? Is it his love and passion for music? Or is it simply his strong-will?
Let’s go back to what I have: I have both my hands, I thank you God. I can strongly feel the power of music. And I think I am very passionate to music; but Strong-will? This I don’t have. Even if I do have it, definitely it’s not as much as George’s. In his case with cello, I am very aware that it is not an instrument that ‘easy to live with’, even with arms. Yet, with the support from his music teacher, George has proven himself that he not only can play, but champion such challenging instrument. I know I can’t. In other cases, we have also known inspiring individuals with physical limitations as Dame Evelyn Glennie, Stephen Hawking, Frida Kahlo, Hellen Keller, and so on. We even have paralympic Games!
So I guess I’m blurring myself with what I have, and what I should have. I am too scared of loosing my hands, my instrument, my studio, but I am hindering my own will. Look who’s disabling now.
George Dennehy, The Armless Musician That Is Inspiring The World
They say that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. That certainly seems to be the philosophy 19-year-old George Dennehy has adopted all his life. For how else can you explain that despite being armless, the musician plays not one, but multiple instruments, all with his feet.
The young boy’s start to life was not very encouraging. Born without arms, he was labeled an outcast and relegated to a Romanian orphanage by his parents. However as luck would have it, Michael and Sharon Dennehy from Ashland, Virginia were looking for a child to adopt and immediately fell in love with George!
The best part was they never allowed him to use his disability as an excuse. So just as they had done for their other three kids, when George turned eight, he was signed up for cello lessons. The instrument, which is tough even for people that have the use of both their hands was even more challenging for George, who had to learn to play it with this feet.
But thanks to his tenacious music teacher that learned to play the instrument with her feet so that she could teach the young boy, George not only mastered the cello, but also realized that he had a passion and talent for music. During middle school years when playing the cello was not considered ‘cool’, he mastered the piano and guitar, which as it turns out, has become his favorite instrument.
As he grew older, Dennehy began uploading his ‘performances‘ on YouTube. Though popular, it was not until last year when his rendition of ‘Iris’ by the Goo Goo Dolls caught the eye of viewers and surged in popularity. Within days, the video had garnered thousands of fans and was featured on multiple news sites, skyrocketing Dennehy to fame.
The internet sensation even caught the eye of the American rock band who invited him to perform alongside them at Pennsylvania’s ten-day long Musikfest in August 2012. Dennehy not only got to perform ‘Iris’, the song that had brought him all this fame, but also covers of ‘Perfect‘ by Pink and ‘Broken Angel’ by Boyce Avenue. He was so popular that Musikfest organizers invited him to the 2013 event, as a solo performer.