Skilled pianist overcomes disability

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Ashwin Kishor

Tapping into his piano mindset, Nicholas Stan utilizes the full scope of both hands to land difficult chords in Chopin’s Nocturne #15, Opus 3. “My own playing style is unique to me because of my hand. I have the right to say it makes my music very, very original,” Stan said.

For him, giving up was easy. From a young age, the only thing he was ever told was “You can’t do it”. It was a good thing he was a bad listener.

Nicholas Stan, eighth grade piano major, was diagnosed with symbrachydactyly at birth. It was a rare condition where fingers were not formed properly, and for Stan, he was only born with two fingers on his left hand.

“It is the condition of being born with either very short fingers or thumbs. My parents told me it was from Amniotic band syndrome and that I was going to have two fingers for the rest of my life,” Stan said.

But he was never discouraged by this. Stan was always looking for a good challenge, and he knew that piano would be the hardest and most entertaining for him.

“The reason I chose piano was because it’s one of the very last things that challenges me,” Stan said. “Like I enjoy science and math and all that stuff, but piano is one of the most challenging things I do. That makes it interesting.”

While others would do this achievement for glory and pride, Stan does piano simply for the fun of it.

“Everything is kind of, in lack of better words, boring. I don’t want to say, ‘Oh, I’m too smart for geometry’ or ‘Oh, I’m too smart for science’,” Stan said. “What I’m saying is piano is the one thing that’s never going to fail to tell me ‘Here’s a harder thing you can do.’”

Some assumed that Stan was disheartened by this since he would always be limited by his left hand. But he never thought this way.

“I don’t know what it is. I don’t know if it’s a gift. I don’t know if it’s a curse. I don’t know what it’s like to have five fingers. The only thing I do know is that I’m going to make the best out of what I got,” Stan said.

That mindset inspired those around him.

“When people hear I play piano, they think it’s pretty cool. But no one ever expects me to come up to them and say that I’m a piano major at an arts school,” Stan said.

Symbrachydactyly did not just affect his piano playing though. With only two fingers, he could not do basic things like picking things up.

“I can’t pick up a book with my left hand. I can’t pick up a water bottle with my left hand. I can’t pick up anything with my left hand,” Stan said.

That did not hurt him either. In fact, he enjoyed his piano career.

“These years have been the best. I’ve been doing great on my recitals, my auditions, scales, everything. Creating music is really fun,” Stan said. “Piano has caused me a lot of hardships, but overall, it’s the most entertaining thing I’ve done. I say this to everyone: the hardest things for you are the ones you learn the most from, and the ones that give you the most laughs.”