Byron Janis is a living legend of the classical music world.
He was a child prodigyâ€”a celebrated pianist born and raised in Pittsburgh whose extraordinary talent brought him to perform for world leaders and kings and queens. He captured international acclaim, countless musical awards, and accolades. He married the daughter of one of Americaâ€™s most revered screen stars. He had it all. Then fate dealt his career a tragic turn and his ability to perform again was nearly torn from his handsâ€”the hands that made music and brought joy and excitement to millions were silenced.
As part of its annual Dialogue on Disability: The Herman & Margaret Schwartz Community Series, WXXI and Al Sigl Community of Agencies are pleased to present The Byron Janis Story, airing Sunday, January 23 at 7 p.m.on WXXI-TV/HD. It is a new documentary about the living legend of the classical music world. A serious injury at age eleven nearly ended his career before it began. Crippling arthritis threatened to cut it short in his prime.
But the story of the man and his music does not stop with the challenges, nor did the music stop forever. The Byron Janis Story also portrays the man who took his disability and turned it into an inspiration for others. Besides giving back as the national spokesperson for the Arthritis Foundation of America and also performing professionally on concert stages worldwide, Janis still gives lectures and performances, teaches master music classes, composes, and writes a regular classical music column for the Wall Street Journal.
The documentary also briefly and tenderly profiles the relationship with his wife, Maria Cooper Janis, daughter of actor Gary Cooper, who not only stood beside him during the challenging times, but also managed to maintain her own career as a gifted and talented painter.
Janis was the first American artist sent to the Soviet Union during the Cold War as part of the U.S/Soviet Cultural Exchange Program, and he was the first student of legendary pianist Vladimir Horowitz. The Byron Janis Story paints a vivid and touching portrait of a musical genius, gifted teacher, and sensitive human being.
The Byron Janis Story is produced by internationally-acclaimed producer, Peter Rosen, presented by WQED Pittsburgh, and distributed nationally through American Public Television (APT).
Dialogue on Disability: The Herman & Margaret Schwartz Community Series, a partnership between WXXI and Al Sigl Community of Agencies, is a week-long outreach initiative designed to stimulate community dialogue about the perspectives and abilities of people with disabilities. At the heart of this initiative is programming broadcast on WXXI-TV and AM 1370 that celebrates the amazing lives of people with disabilities. Dialogue on Disability runs January 16-23. Dialogue on Disability is made possible thanks to support from the Fred L. Emerson Foundation.