Itzhak Perlman is many things including; a famous violinist, an inspiring teacher, and an advocate for disabled people. When he was around four years old, he decided he wanted to play the violin. It was around that time that he contracted polio. His second teacher (Rivka Goldgart) had heard of the diagnosis, and was initially reluctant to teach a disabled child, but met with him anyway. “Actually, the disability did not play any part… The only difference when you study the violin is you stand up when you play. I would say 90% (of the violinists in the world) or even more sit down when they play… So in my case, that was it. I was not playing with my feet, I was playing with my hands.”
While his disability did not affect his playing, it did catch the eye of the press when he went to America from Israel, as he told his recent Boettcher audience at a fundraiser for Choices in Concert and Jewish Colorado. Perlman said early reports would comment about how much he struggled to get on stage with his crutches. Then, when he sat down and played, everyone forgot all about it. At first, Itzhak Perlman did not like the attention he was receiving because of his disability. Later, when everybody got used to it, he asked the press to mention it again to raise awareness about what people with disabilities can accomplish. This was his first of many acts as a disability advocate.
Although Itzhak Perlman advocates for disabled people, he doesn’t think that he has a single greatest accomplishment in that role. “I suppose talking about it is one thing… Hopefully being a role model just by the fact that I’m disabled and I have a career.” He still sees many things that need to be fixed. For example; the ‘accessible’ rooms. Because they are made to standard codes (according to the Americans with Disabilities Act), they can be problematic since “Not everyone has the same disability,” as he phrased very nicely. He also thinks that people should separate someone’s abilities from their disabilities, because people should judge other people by what they can do, not what they can’t do.
Itzhak Perlman is also a cook. He doesn’t have a favorite food, but he says he prefers savory over sweet dishes.
“I started cooking the first time I had to go on a diet… [It was] because all these diet foods are all very unappetizing. My first dish that I remember cooking (I was in my early twenties)... was hot dogs in V8 vegetable juice .. mix(ed) up with some peppers and stuff...”
From Perlman’s love of music and cooking combined arose a new musical instrument: the blender. When you use a blender, the motor creates a certain pitch. The faster the motor moves the higher the pitch is, and Perlman cleverly figured out that one could actually use it as a musical instrument.
There are still a few difficulties getting the pitches right, especially in the middle register, so his favorite piece to play on it, he said, is “anything [that’s] in tune.” Itzhak Perlman said that he would like to start a ‘Guess that Tune’ YouTube channel for the blender, and there are actually a few clips of him playing the blender already on YouTube.
As the blender is relatively new, he still prefers the violin, although he could play either sitting down.