“I decided at age 10 that I wanted to learn how to play the piano, but I knew that it was going to take a little bit more work for me to learn,” Simmons told CNN. “I knew most people had 10 fingers. I knew I had four, but I was pretty sure I could make it work.”
And he did make it work. Simmons, without any formal training, taught himself by ear how to play the piano. Starting with his church’s piano, he practiced a lot and found ways to get to the keys with his four fingers while grasping the pedals with his prostheses.
Due to his condition, he found his own style of playing the video.
“I couldn’t base it on the technique of somebody who has 10 fingers. It just wouldn’t work’” he said. “That’s why it was hard for me to take piano lessons. It’s very complicated for somebody who has learned how to play with 10 fingers to adjust and teach me with only four.”
In effect, 19-year-old Simmons prefers to play without sheet music and he is doing just great.
“I like to play what’s off the page. The music and what the composer thought the music should be is on the page, but what I think the music should be is off of it. That’s why I let my ears tell me how to play,” he was quoted by Cleveland Magazine.
When he was 15, he recorded himself covering famous South Korean pianist Yiruma’s “The River Flows In You”. He posted the video on Facebook and it soon went viral, getting the attention of many including Yiruma himself who invited Simmons to play with him at Carnegie Hall in 2016.
From that performance, Simmons knew that he would like to be “somebody’s motivation.”
“If I play in front of a whole crowd and I see one person smile, that’s a job well done,” he told CNN last year.
The Berklee College of Music student has, so far, not only learned to play and read music but is also a composer with one of his popular compositions being “Dreams Are Forever.”
Simmons loves music and would want to continue with that, but he has another passion.
“I want to be like a motivational speaker. I want to travel around the world and show people with more than just my music that you can turn something like a disability that seems so bad into something that can make so many people happy. That’s my goal every day: to make at least one person smile.”
His mother, Tamara Simmons, is so proud of him but is not surprised at her son’s achievements considering how determined he has been in spite of his condition.
“You can’t tell him he can’t do anything — he doesn’t know the word ‘can’t.’ He won’t accept that. He’s just one heck of a boy.
Watch Simmons perform his composition “Dreams Are Forever” at The Not Impossible Awards: