New film documents pianist Byron Janis’s difficult path

Posted on: October 27, 2010

In Wednesday’s (10/27) Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Andrew Druckenbrod writes, “Concert pianists often create the illusion that they have extra hands flying ’round the keyboard. For years, concert pianist Byron Janis maintained a much more difficult deception—that he was playing with 10 healthy fingers. He overcame a childhood injury and later a severe case of arthritis to perform at a top level.” Janis severed his pinky to the bone when he was young, leaving it permanently numb. ‘ “You will never play again,” said doctors,’ recalls Mr. Janis, 82. ‘But I just didn’t listen and somehow I went on. I learned how to use my eyes in a peripheral sense to see where the pinky was. I learned how to put it in the right place as I went on.’ But he didn’t just keep playing the piano. Mr. Janis continued on a path of a major concert pianist. … Tomorrow, WQED-TV will premiere a documentary about Mr. Janis’ life produced by Peter Rosen, coinciding with the release of the pianist’s memoirs, ‘Chopin and Beyond: My Extraordinary Life in Music and the Paranormal (Wiley, $26.95),’ co-written with his wife Maria Cooper Janis, the daughter of Gary Cooper.”

Posted October 27, 2010