Teenager Alexey Romanov has become a promising piano player despite a debilitating illness that has deprived him of his fingers since birth.
Sixteen-year-old prodigy Romanov from Zelenodolsk, a village in the Republic of Tatarstan, first took up music two years ago after being inspired by the works of Mozart and Vivaldi.
In the short time since he has performed for the republic’s orchestra and has found fame on national TV.
Romanov’s music teacher at a specialist school for children with disabilities helped him get started, beginning with the melodies from films including vampire series Twilight and 1990s Hollywood blockbuster Titanic, both popular in Russia.
He credits two friends for teaching him the basics of music and how to read notes. “They still help me. They send me sheet music, which I study and if I like something, I let it settle inside me,” he said.
Romanov, who is at boarding school in Tatarstan’s capital Kazan, was adopted two years ago.
His adoptive parents, Vladimir and Luisa Levachkovye, noticed his predisposition for art and bought him a synthesizer. With time and a lot of practice, Romanov began participating in competitions – and winning them.
In February he performed with Kazan’s respected La Primavera chamber orchestra, which led to an invitation to join a music school in the capital.
The orchestra’s chief conductor also invited Romanov to participate in the television programme Guests from Tomorrow, where he performed River Flows in You, a composition written by South Korean pianist Lee Ru-ma for Twilight.
The young musician’s performance, seen across Russia, attracted admiration from the public and attention from the media.
One Facebook user said: “Alexey is a hero, he deserves respect and praise! [I] wish you health and happiness in life.”
“We all are constantly complaining about life. One can only admire such people. The guy is fantastic,” added another.
“During the [TV] concert I was shaking from the tension. I can’t even remember what was happening,” reflected Romanov.
“I walked on to the stage, sat down and started playing. I felt my knees shaking. Then I realised that I was doing well, it’s as if the melody started flowing by itself.”
He explained how hard it was for him to learn the music early on, and how worried he was about trembling when he had to speak in front of a large audience.
Romanov, modest to the point of being shy, seemed embarrassed when it was suggested that his story provides inspiration for young musicians and the wider public.
Last week he travelled to Moscow for the first time to take part in the reality show Let Them Talk and met Australian motivational speaker Nick Vujicic, which he said was a lifelong dream.
As for who inspires him, he said: “Sometimes it seems that there is an invisible, endless spiritual source out of which I can draw strength.”