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Arts and Culture

Itzhak Perlman: World Renowned Violinist and the Campaign to Eradicate Polio from the World

January 31, 2013
On the evening of January 16th 2013, Itzhak Perlman performed with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra in a Special Program at the Performing Arts Center in downtown Milwaukee with Francesco Lecce-Chong, conductor. The experience of watching this virtuoso performer is thrilling and hearing his beautiful intonation and dynamic sound is inspiring. Itzhak Perlman is considered the greatest virtuoso violinist of our time. What you may or may not know about Itzhak Perlman is that he has used his talent to actively campaign and raise money for Rotary International for the fight to end polio from the world. What you may not realize is that Itzhak Perlman is also probably one of the most famous survivors of polio, he uses braces for mobility, and plays the violin seated.

For this evening’s performance, Itzhak Perlman entered the stage with his legs in braces and used crutches to master the stairs up the platform where upon stood the chair that he would sit to perform Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D major, the audience waiting in reverent awe for his musical genius. Frank Almond, concert master, followed the violinist carrying his violin and now pretended to offer his own violin rather than Perlman’s instrument which would be one of Perlman’s circa 1700 violins, famous Stradeveri, drawing laughter from the capacity filled PAC. Perlman’s performance appeared effortless though his finger and bow work and musical sound are breathtakingly spectacular. At the end of the evening’s performance, the audience through their ovation pleaded for encore. By the third call back, Mr. Perlman with his famous good humor threw a towel toward the front of the stage to end the applause, but the audience only renewed their zeal and he accepted their request to appear at the stage front. This was becoming clearly taxing for him, but he was gracious to appear on his crutches one more time, for which the audience resumed their ovation.

"Itzhak Perlman was born in Tel Aviv, Israel, August 31, 1945. His resolve to play the violin started at age 3, however he contracted polio at age 4. Although his legs were affected by the virus his arms were not, by 11 he was a child prodigy violinist and moved to the U.S. to study at the Jiulliard School. He appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in the U.S playing The Flight of the Bumblebee at the age of 13. He made his debut at Carnegie Hall in 1963 and went on to an extensive recording and performance career. He has taught master classes and won many national awards for his performances." Derived from Wikipedia: Itzhak Perlman

Itzhak Perlman survived paralytic polio and has actively campaigned to eradicate polio from the world. He is a Program Ambassador for the Rotary program “This Close” to ending polio appearing often in concert for the proceeds to be given to Rotary International for the fight to end polio once and for all. Perlman has said of his polio, “As a polio survivor, I've experienced the same problems that many polio victims face. I walk with crutches, use a scooter at times and have dealt with all sorts of problems with access. With my rigorous travel schedule and tight airport security, it's not getting any easier…not just for someone with a disability. As a musician, I've been lucky to have a fairly good gift. Whatever effect I can have, I'm happy to be playing a part in this campaign and will continue to support it and put the word out." From USA Today, "Itzhak Perlman: We are 'this close' to ending polio for good this World Polio Day," by Christie Garton, 10/2011.

The fight to end polio is led by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which includes Rotary International, UNICEF, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and governments of the world, with the support of many others around the globe. With 1.2 million members in more than 34,000 clubs worldwide, Rotary International is dedicated to volunteerism, high ethical standards and goodwill. Since End Polio Now, “Polio cases have declined rapidly since 1985, but the fight isn't over. Polio is a crippling and potentially fatal infectious disease, and for as little as US $0.60, a child can be protected against the virus for life. If we don't finish the fight right now, more than 10 million children under the age of five could be paralyzed by polio in the next 40 years.”…End Polio Now has just eliminated India from the list of endemic countries as there were no reports of polio in 2012. Only three countries, Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan remain polio endemic.

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