My name is Melissa Engle, and I feel kind of strange talking about myself, but the New Era people wanted me to tell you my story. I guess it’s because some people would say I have a handicap, but I play the violin anyway, and I really like it. No—I love it.
When I was born I only had a thumb on my right hand because the umbilical cord got wrapped around my fingers and cut them off. My dad wanted to find something I could do to strengthen my hand and make it useful. Playing the violin seemed like a natural because I wouldn’t have to finger with both hands, like you would with a flute or something like that.
I’ve been playing for about eight years now. I take private lessons, and I have to work at things like a paper route to help pay for them. I get to the lessons by riding a bus across town.
I can only practice about two hours a day during the school year, but in the summer I like to practice about six hours. I love it, too. Practicing helps lift me up. Sometimes when I’m down because people ignore me or someone is a snob or a guy I like doesn’t like me, I can practice and it makes me feel better.
Classical music is always uplifting to me. I’ve loved it ever since I was little. Sometimes pop music has a message in the lyrics that isn’t very good, but you usually don’t have to worry about that with classical music.
My music also helps me get closer to Heavenly Father. I’ve learned a lot about him and about prayer through it.
One time I practiced really hard and prayed a lot before a big competition. But I really messed up. I started in the wrong key, and by the end of the piece it just sounded awful. I came away thinking, Why didn’t Heavenly Father help me? I did everything I could! But then I realized the whole thing motivated me to practice even harder. I might have slacked off a little if I’d done better. Instead I worked a lot more.
A highlight for me was Interlochen, located on a lake in Michigan, one of the best music camps in the world for kids. I sent in my application for the eight weeks of intensive music training and couldn’t believe I got accepted.
The only problem was money. It cost thousands of dollars, and there was no way I’d have time to make that much before the deadline. So I prayed and prayed, and about a week before I had to send in the money, I was called into the office of a man who had a grant for someone with a handicap who was pursuing the arts. That, to me, was a miracle, and I’m really grateful for it. Someday, I’m going to help a musician like that.
Someday, too, my ultimate goal would be to play with the Utah Symphony. And I’d really like to be a music teacher.
I realize that if I’m ever going to be as good as I’d like to be, I have to sacrifice some time with my friends, and I miss that. But I do have a few hobbies outside of music. I like to sew—I’ve made some of the dresses I perform in. And I like to draw, too—a drawing I did of Symphony Hall (in Salt Lake City) even won an award. I like to water-ski and ice skate, I like to go to camp, and I love seminary.
I’m not that different from anybody else, really. I just feel blessed that I have music in my life. I know some people think it’s unusual for someone with a hand like mine to be playing, but really, I don’t look at it as a handicap at all.
It would be great if everyone could find something like that—something good that they really love—and not let little things get in the way of following it.