I was recently given the opportunity to review, Chopin and Beyond, by Byron Janis (published Oct. 2010). It is an engaging book, that gives the reader a glimpse into the life a man with creative genius and unwavering strength of will. He was born in Pennsylvania in 1928. Janis recounts his journey from a child prodigy (the family sacrifics, influential patrons, and synchronicty of events that made it possible for his talent to unfold and opened experiences and opportunites) to becoming a world famous classical pianist. At age 20 his debut at Carnegie Hall marked the beginning of a glamorous career traveling the world, meeting celebrities and royalty. His life was not all smooth sailing. Janis had to face many struggles, including injuries to his hands and crippling arthritis that almost ended his career. Along with the milestones, anecdotes and memories from his life and career, Janis shares a glimpse into the other worldly experiences and inner voice that called for him to strive for “more than music.” These paranormal experiences transformed and shaped his life and music in profound ways.
Janis is an extremely talented classical pianist, but not a professional writer. What he lacks in writing skill is made up for by the strength of spirit, determination, and insights that are presented. At times the book is a bit choppy in the presentation of events, with tidbits of what seems like unrelated events dropped into the narrative of the story being recounted, only loosely connected to what is occurring in the same time frame. The lack of writing polish is more than made up for by the author’s genuine voice speaking through the pages, recounting his life story in his own words.
There are many inspirational moments throughout the book. Here are just a few:
- after a childhood injury to his hand and all but one piano teacher abandoned him, Janis writes “sometimes all you need is just one person to believe in you and you feel that you can do anything – but only as long as you believe in yourself”
- other childhood lessons he learned from his piano mentors – humor and being playful were acceptable; and how important is was to not idolize or imitate others, “there is more than one viable way to approach something.”
- when crippling arthritis almost ended his career he battled the physical and emotional challenges, learning to live with limtiations gave him a new intensity for life, he “couldn’t control he had arthritis but he could control how he coped.”
- he became a spokesperson for the arthritis foundation and he would tell the children, “don’t have one dream, have dreams.” He encouraged them to think beyond the limitations of the arthritis and explore other ways to express their dreams and achieve their goals.
I was born with juvenile rhumatoid arthritis, so I found his strength of will to battle the disease truly inspirational. I am also interested in the possibility of paranormal experiences, and found his encounters interesting examples of what may be possible.
Overall an entertaining and inspiring book amount a fascinating personality with a touch of the “unknown” thrown in for a bit of added spice.
Disclosure: I was a given a free copy of the book for review, no other compensation was given. The book will be donated to the local library.