One-armed musician on a noble mission

JOHOR BARU: At first glance, it would look kind of odd to see a guy construct a self-made cast out of Gorilla Tape to secure a guitar pick to his missing forearm. But that oddness somehow turns into awe and admiration as he plays the guitar gracefully and cheerfully singing songs about encouragement.

The remarkable guy is Tony Memmel, a 31-year old singer and songwriter, who described himself as "gifted with a great gift" and has made encouraging others with disabilities a full-time career.

According to him, to have the ability to do music is to have the opportunity and freedom to help others who are born different just like him.

"My own passion is to help kids and anyone who just need some encouragement. It is just all built right into that, desire for service," said the American in an interview, here, recently.

Being born without a left forearm did not prevent Memmel from teaching himself to play the guitar and showing others who also have disabilities, that perseverance does conquer everything.

"It has become a passion of mine to encourage others who also face challenges, through demonstrating how I play the guitar and just to have the opportunity to interact with them.

"I want to show them that whatever their differences are; in maths, science, sports, music or whatever it happens to be, my hope is just that they work really hard and know that they have a purpose to shine in this world as well," he said.

He together with his band, 'Tony Memmel and His Band' which includes his wife, Lesleigh Memmel, 32, and Joey Wengerd, 29, share a dream that music should be enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities.

"What we are really passionate about is just trying to give the best presentation, workshop or concert for a meaningful impact on the audience, no matter what their disability is," he said.

Some of the songs that the band often plays is Stand By Me and Lean on Me, and some of Memmel's original music as well, like Lucky Fin Song, which he has been teaching and singing to kids born with disabilities.

"It is based on the movie Finding Nemo, and as you know, Nemo is the lead character born with a small fin, and his dad calls it his lucky fin, and Nemo does all kinds of amazing things and that's my inspiration.

"Nemo has been a hero for kids, especially those with disabilities, and I wrote this song just to encourage them and we have been playing this song all over Southeast Asia while travelling," he added.

The trio from Nashville, Tennessee is currently travelling in Southeast Asia for 39 days, and had started their journey from Singapore, before coming to Malaysia now, and would continue their journey to Indonesia, Cambodia, and Taiwan.

They were met recently before performing at the Johor Cerebral Palsy Association headquarters, which was attended by some 300 spastic children and kids from local schools, here, today.

The trio was brought by the United States Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs which has partnered with American Voices to engage with international audiences around the globe through the American Music Abroad programme.

American Music Abroad is a people-to-people cultural exchange programme designed to communicate America's rich musical contributions and diverse culture to the global music scene. ā€” Bernama