4-year-old with one hand encouraged by professional violinist

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Grand Rapids boy with one hand got the violin lesson of a lifetime Thursday, learning from a world-renowned musician who is just like him.

Despite being born without a right hand, Adrian Anantawan is one of the most accomplished violinists in the world. The Canadian-born musician has performed for everyone from the pope to the president.

He’s in town this week to perform as the solo violinist with the Grand Rapids Symphony.

Ahead of his performance, Anantawan dropped by DeVos Performance Hall on Thursday to meet 4-year-old Calvin GerkeGreen of Grand Rapids.

The two having something very special in common. As Anantawan is missing his right hand, Calvin is missing his left. They call it their “special hand.”

“Whenever l meet someone who has a ‘special hand,’ instead of shaking their hand, I like to do a fist bump,” Anantawan said to Calvin when they met.

Professional violinist Adrian Anantawan meets with aspiring violinist Calvin GerkeGreen, 4, of Grand Rapids. (Sept. 30, 2021)

Anantawan wasn’t much older than Calvin when he first took up the violin. As a boy with only one hand, it was his way of fitting in.

“Music in particular is an incredible equalizer in understanding and accepting difference,” Anantawan said. “It only gains its strength about what is different and special about every single person.”

Using a prosthesis to grip his instrument, Anantawan travels the world performing as a professional violinist.

His other passion is inspiring others like himself, especially kids.

“It’s important to have those reminders that yes we can and with the right people in place, we can do anything,” he said.

He devotes much of his time to being an advocate for those with disabilities.

“Calvin’s story or my story, as wonderful or unique as they are, they’re not the only stories,” he said.

Neither Calvin nor his parents see his limb difference as a disability or a handicap. Rather, it’s what makes him unique.

“I wish everyone had a special hand,” Calvin said.

Aside from taking violin, Calvin enjoys playing hockey, dancing ballet and playing with his five brothers.

“He doesn’t spend a lot of time wondering if he can do something or if he can’t do something,” Calvin’s mom Jenn Gerke said. “He just jumps straight to the how.”

Anantawan will perform as the featured guest during the Grand Rapids Symphony’s classical series opening concert this Friday and Saturday at DeVos Performance Hall. You can learn more about his career and advocacy work on his website.

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