One-handed guitarist Tony Memmel visited Westwood Day School and Covenant Academy on Friday to share his music and spread a message of perseverance.
Surrounded by children at Westwood, Memmel took out a roll of black Gorilla tape and tore three pieces off. Then, he demonstrated how he secures his guitar pick to the end of his elbow. The process appeared to be quick and simple, but according to Memmel, it wasn’t always.
“This cast took me one minute to build, but it took me eight years of practice,” said Memmel to the kids. “Probably longer than all of you have been alive … that’s how long it took me to play the guitar so my hope is you remember that you can do anything you set your mind to. Just always do your best.”
Memmel performed a variety of original and cover songs including “You’ve Got a Friend” and “Lucky Fin.” This song was inspired by the Disney movie “Finding Nemo,” where its lead character is a fish born with a small fin but it doesn’t stop him from accomplishing anything he sets out to do.
“If you think about it,” said Memmel, “I kind of have a lucky fin like Nemo. The message I get to share all around the world is this – you have a purpose. You were made for something really special in mind, a special gift, talent and ability and it might be different than the person sitting next to you, but it’s so important. You can do amazing things if you work really hard and keep going on those tough days.”
One student particularly excited for Memmel’s visit was 5-year-old Avery Bryant, who also has a limb difference. After the presentation, Avery told Memmel she plays piano. When asked what she thought about his performance, Avery said, “It was like magic.”
“I was excited about seeing him and my favorite songs were ‘Wheels on the Bus’ and ‘Lucky Fin,’” said Avery with a smile.
Avery’s mom and Westwood kindergarten teacher Catherine Bryant was happy her students were given the opportunity to hear Memmel’s inspirational story. As for her daughter Avery, Catherine hopes she learned from talking and interacting with Memmel that anything is possible.
“No matter what she wants to do in life, having a limb difference is not a setback or an excuse from doing the things she wants to achieve,” said Bryant. “Faith in God and determination will get her anywhere she wants in life.”