PBS

For the Left Hand

Premiered October 25, 2021

At age 10, aspiring pianist Norman Malone is paralyzed on his right side after being attacked by his father. Over the next several decades he masters the left-hand repertoire in secret, before a chance discovery of his talent leads him towards making his concert debut. Aged 78, he will perform the greatest work in the canon: Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand.

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About the Show

When he was five years old, Norman Malone – who lived in a housing project on the South Side of Chicago – discovered the piano and emerged a prodigious musician. Tragically, when Norman was 10, his father attacked him and his two younger brothers with a hammer to the head. Norman’s father then killed himself. The boys survived the attack, but each was left partially paralyzed on the right side of the body.

Even so, Norman was determined to remain a pianist. Though he didn't know that there was a whole literature of piano music for left hand alone, he found someone to teach him and eventually mastered some of the most difficult piano music ever written. He spent his career as a beloved high school choral teacher, however, and never told anyone that he was practicing the piano – and never performing a single piano concert.

After the Tribune stories appeared, life for Malone changed! When Malone’s former students read the Tribune coverage, they were shocked to learn the reason for his disability and created the Norman Malone Alumni Choir, rehearsing for months to perform a concert of thanks for him. Malone conducted the last piece in an emotional climax.

More importantly, Malone started receiving invitations to give concerts. At 78 years old, Malone made his belated concert debut, and Scott Pelley's "CBS Evening News" came to Chicago to cover it. In October 2016, at 79, Malone performed the most formidable piece in the left-hand repertoire – Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand – with an orchestra for the first time in West Hartford, Connecticut.

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