Bionic Gloves Are Helping This Renowned Pianist Perform For The First Time In 20 Years

image of pianist João Carlos Martins

Brazilian pianist João Carlos Martins is finally able to do what he loves after 20 years of being unable to play piano.

Martins, an internationally recognized musician, lost the ability to move his fingers and could only play the piano using his thumbs. Throughout the past 55 years, he has battled many health setbacks. In 1965, he suffered nerve damage in his arm due to a soccer injury.

He later developed a degenerative disease that has required him to go through 24 surgeries. Additionally, a mugging left him with a head injury and by 2000, he had given up performing. Instead, he’s spent the past two decades as an acclaimed conductor.

“After I lost my tools, my hands, and couldn’t play the piano, it was if there was a corpse inside my chest,” he told the Associated Press in January of this year.

Martins — who hasn’t fully played in 20 years — is getting a second chance, thanks to an incredible invention by Ubiratã Bizarro Costa. The two collaborated on a pair of neoprene-covered bionic gloves, that assist his fingers as he plays. Martins has tried multiple other devices and inventions, but has not found success until Costa’s creation.

The two went through a few models before they found the right fit, and now Martins can play piano once again.

It hasn’t been easy, though. Martin has had to relearn his skill after not using his hands the way he used to for 20 years.

“I might not recover the speed of the past. I don’t know what result I will get. I’m starting over as though I were an eight-year-old learning,” he told the Associated Press.

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Estou chegando lá... Nunca fiz festa no meu aniversário e sempre que possível estive no palco. Amanhã, 25/6, nos meus 80 anos, para não fugir à regra, teremos uma live a partir das 20:00, onde anunciarei os meus planos para os meus próximos 20 anos. A live será transmitida pelo YouTube e Facebook maestrojoãocarlosmartins, pelo YouTube do Teatro Bradesco e pelo Facebook EY, com várias participações especiais. #maestrojoãocarlosmartins #maestrojoaocarlosmartins #bachianafilarmonicasesisp #anamariabragaoficial #alexandrenero #josoares #chitaozinhoexororo #casagrande #tomcavalcante #serginhogroisman #jeanwilliamcantor #annabeatrizgomes #davicampolongo

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Martins has been practicing daily, with the goal to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York. He had a performance lined up this month, however, COVID-19 shutdowns interfered.

In the meantime, Martins is enjoying falling back in love with his music.


Written by Lindsay Patton