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The Amazing Music of Darrius Simmons

How a teen boy from Ohio ended up playing piano at Carnegie Hall—one of the world’s most famous concert halls  

Michael McElroy for Getty Images for Scholastic

    At a mall in Ohio, a teenage boy sits at a keyboard in a music store and starts to play. His fingers glide effortlessly over the keys, and beautiful music fills the air. 

    Shoppers stop and listen. A crowd gathers. People pull out their phones to record him. 

    Those who look closer are even more amazed. Why? There’s something extraordinary about Darrius Simmons, the boy making magic at the keyboard. 

    He is playing with only four fingers.

    Darrius, 18, was born with three fingers on his right hand and one on his left hand. He was also missing bones in his lower legs. But Darrius has never let these challenges get in the way.

    When he was just a toddler, doctors gave Darrius artificial legs called prostheses. They were uncomfortable to wear at first. But Darrius was determined to walk. 

    He spent hours practicing by holding on to furniture. When he was almost 3, he took his first real steps. His family celebrated.

    As Darrius grew older, he had to work hard to do things that were easy for other kids. Anytime someone tried to help, he would say, “I can do it myself.” 

    For example, he learned to use the three fingers on his right hand to hold a fork. He taught himself to write. And soon he was playing basketball, football, and video games with his friends.

    At a mall in Ohio, a teen boy sits at a keyboard in a music store. He starts to play. His fingers glide effortlessly over the keys, and beautiful music fills the air. 

    Shoppers stop and listen. A crowd gathers. People use their phones to record him.

    Those who look closer are even more amazed. Why? There’s something unusual about Darrius Simmons, the boy at the keyboard.

    He is playing with only four fingers.

    Darrius was born with three fingers on his right hand and one on his left. He was also missing bones in his lower legs. But he hasn’t let these challenges stop him. 

    When he was a toddler, doctors gave him artificial legs called prostheses. They were uncomfortable to wear at first. But Darrius was determined to walk.

    He spent hours practicing, holding on to furniture. When he was almost 3, he took his first real steps. His family celebrated.

    As Darrius grew older, he had to work hard to do things that were easy for other kids. When people tried to help, he would say, “I can do it myself.”

    Darrius learned to use the fingers on his right hand to hold a fork. He learned to write. And he played basketball, football, and video games with his friends.

    At a mall in Ohio, a teenage boy sits at a keyboard in a music store and starts to play. His fingers glide effortlessly over the keys, and beautiful music fills the air. 

    Shoppers stop and listen. A crowd gathers. People pull out their phones to record him.

    Those who look closer are even more astonished—because there’s something extraordinary about Darrius Simmons, the boy making magic at the keyboard.

    He’s playing with only four fingers.

    Darrius, 18, was born with three fingers on his right hand and one on his left hand. He was also missing bones in his lower legs. But Darrius has never let these challenges get in the way.

    When he was just a toddler, doctors fitted Darrius with artificial legs called prostheses. They were uncomfortable to wear at first, but Darrius was determined to walk.

    He spent hours practicing by holding on to furniture. When he was almost 3, he took his first real steps, and his family celebrated.

    As Darrius grew older, he had to work hard to do things that were easy for other kids. Anytime someone tried to help, he would say, “I can do it myself.”

    For example, he learned to use the three fingers on his right hand to hold a fork. He also taught himself to write—and before long, he was playing basketball, football, and video games with his friends.

Learning to Play

    When Darrius was 10, he told his grandfather how much he liked the piano music at church. “It’s too bad you can’t play,” his grandfather said. Darrius took that as a challenge. 

    He asked the music director at church to teach him some simple songs. “I like to show people I can do things they think I can’t do,” he says.

    When Darrius was in eighth grade, his mom bought him an electric keyboard. He would listen to a song and then try to figure it out. Often he practiced for two or three hours a day. 

    “Getting my hand placement was the hard part,” he says. “Everyone else has 10 fingers, and I have 4. So I had to come up with my own technique.” He also had to figure out how to play the pedal with his prostheses.

    Darrius’s favorite piano song is called “River Flows in You” by a Korean composer named Yiruma. It took Darrius almost a year to learn it. But when he did, he felt so proud. He had finally mastered the difficult piece.

    When Darrius was 10, he told his grandfather he liked the piano music at church. “It’s too bad you can’t play,” his grandfather said. Darrius took that as a challenge.

    He asked the music director at church to teach him some simple songs. “I like to show people I can do things they think I can’t do,” he says.

    When Darrius was in eighth grade, his mom got him an electric keyboard. He would listen to a song. Then he would try to play it. He practiced for hours.

    “Getting my hand placement was the hard part,” he says. “Everyone else has 10 fingers, and I have 4. So I had to come up with my own technique.” He also had to figure out how to play the pedal with his prostheses.

    His favorite piano song is called “River Flows in You” by a Korean composer named Yiruma. It took Darrius almost a year to learn it. But when he did, he felt proud.

    When Darrius was 10, he told his grandfather how much he enjoyed the piano music at church. “It’s too bad you can’t play,” his grandfather responded. Darrius took that as a challenge.

    He asked the music director at church to teach him some simple songs. “I like to show people I can do things they think I can’t do,” he says.

    When Darrius was in eighth grade, his mother bought him an electric keyboard. He would listen to a song and then try to figure out how to play it, often practicing for two or three hours a day.

    “Getting my hand placement was the hard part,” Darrius recalls. “Everyone else has 10 fingers, and I have 4. So I had to come up with my own technique.” He also had to figure out how to play the pedal with his prostheses.

    Darrius’s favorite piano song is called “River Flows in You” by a Korean composer named Yiruma. It took Darrius almost a year to learn it, but he felt incredibly proud when he finally mastered the difficult piece.

A Big Performance

    When Darrius was 15, a local television news station heard about his talent. They did a story about him. In the video, they showed him playing Yiruma’s song.

    Then something amazing happened. Someone sent the video to Yiruma. He invited Darrius to play with him at Carnegie Hall—a famous concert hall in New York City!

    After meeting backstage, Darrius and Yiruma walked onto the  stage together. The lights were so bright that Darrius had to squint to see the audience. All 2,800 seats were filled. “The people in the back were so far away they looked like little specks,” he says. 

    Darrius and Yiruma played a duet. Afterward, the audience gave them a thunderous standing ovation. “I was excited to play in Carnegie Hall, but I was even more excited about meeting Yiruma,” Darrius says. “It was the best moment of my life.”

    Darrius told Yiruma he dreamed of being a composer—that he had music in his head all the time. Yiruma encouraged Darrius to follow his dream.

    When Darrius was 15, a local TV news station did a story on him. They showed him playing Yiruma’s song.

    Someone sent the video to Yiruma. He invited Darrius to play with him at Carnegie Hall. That’s a famous concert hall in New York City!

    Backstage, Darrius met Yiruma. Then the two walked onto the stage. The lights were bright. Darrius had to squint to see the audience. All 2,800 seats were filled. “The people in the back were so far away they looked like little specks,” he says.

    Darrius and Yiruma played a duet. The applause was thunderous. “I was excited to play in Carnegie Hall, but I was even more excited about meeting Yiruma,” Darrius says. “It was the best moment of my life.”

    Darrius told Yiruma he wanted to write music. Yiruma encouraged him to follow his dream.

    When Darrius was 15, a local television news station heard about his talent and did a story about him. In the video, they showed him playing Yiruma’s song.

    Someone sent the video to Yiruma, and he invited Darrius to play with him at Carnegie Hall—a famous concert hall in New York City!

    After meeting backstage, Darrius and Yiruma walked onto the stage together. The lights were so bright that Darrius had to squint to see the audience. All 2,800 seats were filled. “The people in the back were so far away they looked like little specks,” he recalls.

    Darrius and Yiruma played a duet, and the audience gave them a thunderous standing ovation. “I was excited to play in Carnegie Hall, but I was even more excited about meeting Yiruma,” Darrius remembers. “It was the best moment of my life.”

    Darrius told Yiruma he dreamed of being a composer—that he had music in his head all the time. Yiruma encouraged Darrius to follow his dream.

A Song of His Own

    Darrius was inspired. When he got home, he started writing his own songs. The first one was called “Dreams Are Forever.” He posted it on Facebook last year, and the video went viral. It now has more than 4 million views. 

    Even Yiruma saw the video. He called Darrius to congratulate him. He encouraged him to keep making music. 

    Darrius, now 18, is writing more songs. When he graduates in May, he hopes to travel the country to play music and share his story. 

    He says he wants people to appreciate the music he’s making—regardless of how many fingers he has on his hands. “I may have a disability,” he says, “but I don’t let it hold me back from anything.”

    Darrius was inspired. He started writing songs. The first one was called “Dreams Are Forever.” He posted it on Facebook last year. The video went viral. It now has more than 4 million views.

    Yiruma saw the video. He called Darrius to congratulate him. 

    Darrius is now 18. He’s still writing songs. He’ll graduate in May. After that, he hopes to travel the country to play music and share his story.

    He wants people to enjoy his music regardless of how many fingers he has. “I may have a disability,” he says, “but I don’t let it hold me back from anything.” 

    Darrius was inspired, and he began writing his own songs when he got home. The first one was called “Dreams Are Forever.” He posted it on Facebook last year, and the video went viral. It now has more than 4 million views.

    Yiruma saw the video and called Darrius to congratulate him. He encouraged Darrius to continue making music.

    Darrius, now 18, is writing more songs. When he graduates in May, he hopes to travel the country to play music and share his story.

    He says he wants people to appreciate the music he’s making regardless of how many fingers he has on his hands. “I may have a disability,” Darrius declares, “but I don’t let it hold me back from anything.”

ACTIVITY: 
Cause and Effect

You’ve just read “The Amazing Music of Darrius Simmons” It’s time to try this activity!

You’ve just read “The Amazing Music of Darrius Simmons” It’s time to try this activity!

You’ve just read “The Amazing Music of Darrius Simmons” It’s time to try this activity!

What to do: A cause is what makes an event happen. An effect is what happens as a result. In the chart below, fill in the missing causes and effects.

What to do: cause is what makes an event happen. An effect is what happens as a result. In the chart below, fill in the missing causes and effects.

What to do: cause is what makes an event happen. An effect is what happens as a result. In the chart below, fill in the missing causes and effects.

Cause: Darrius was born without certain bones in his lower legs.

Effect:
Hint: What did doctors give him to help?

Cause: Darrius was born without certain bones in his lower legs.

Effect:
HintWhat did doctors give him to help?

Cause: Darrius was born without certain bones in his lower legs.

Effect:
HintWhat did doctors give him to help?

Cause: 
Hint: How is Darrius different from many people who play the piano?

Effect: He had to come up with his own technique to be able to play the piano.

Cause: 
HintHow is Darrius different from many people who play the piano?

Effect: He had to come up with his own technique to be able to play the piano.

Cause: 
HintHow is Darrius different from many people who play the piano?

Effect: He had to come up with his own technique to be able to play the piano.

Cause: When Darrius was 15, a local TV station showed him playing a song by a composer named Yiruma.

Effect:
Hint: Who saw the video? What happened as a result?

Cause: When Darrius was 15, a local TV station showed him playing a song by a composer named Yiruma.

Effect:
HintWho saw the video? What happened as a result?

Cause: When Darrius was 15, a local TV station showed him playing a song by a composer named Yiruma.

Effect:
HintWho saw the video? What happened as a result?

Cause: 
Hint: What did Darrius and Yiruma talk about at Carnegie Hall?

Effect: When he returned home, Darrius was inspired to start writing his own music.

Cause: 
HintWhat did Darrius and Yiruma talk about at Carnegie Hall?

Effect: When he returned home, Darrius was inspired to start writing his own music.

Cause: 
HintWhat did Darrius and Yiruma talk about at Carnegie Hall?

Effect: When he returned home, Darrius was inspired to start writing his own music.

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