Handicap Doesn’t Stop Pianist
Shortly before Wael Farouk’s third birthday, his father made a decision that would change the course of his life. It was then, back in Cairo, when his parents noticed tiny Wael was having trouble clinging to objects.
Because the ligaments in his fingers were shorter than normal, doctors suggested strengthening his hands with regular exercise, rather than subjecting young Wael to injections or surgery. Had his father, Farouk, bought his son a rubber ball, Wael just might have become a racquetball player.
Instead, he bought a toy piano for his son’s third birthday.
“I still have that piano today,” said Wael Farouk, now 32 and a classical pianist.
Reflecting on a life spent honing his musical craft to the point where he recently made his New York recital debut at Carnegie Hall, Farouk paused for a moment before saying: “I sometimes think, ‘If I had normal sized hands, would I still play piano?’ At the end of the day, I don’t think it matters because you can’t change history. I’m happy and grateful he did buy that piano. That’s one of the things he’s proud of I think. He never dreamed I’d accomplish what I’ve had.”
Currently in his third semester of a three-year doctoral program at Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of the Arts, Farouk doesn’t look at his inability to straighten his fingers or clench a fist as a disability.
“My hands work fine,” he said before a performance in the University Inn dining hall on the Douglass Campus.
Demonstrating why NYConcertReview.com wrote “Mr. Farouk’s magic is not so much about hands as about the inner musician” in a review of his Carnegie Hall performance in June. “The Egyptian-born pianist specializes in classical composition, skillfully playing the works of Mozart, Bach, Beethoven and Chopin on any piano he gets his hands on.”
“Regardless of where you play, if it’s in an elementary school, a church or Carnegie Hall, it shouldn’t matter,” Farouk said. “For Michelangelo, it didn’t matter where his paintings (would) go. If you are accepted to play in a venue like that, of course, that’s a great honor. The responsibility is huge, but I did not treat it any differently.”