A different tune
April 4, 2011 10:49 pm
Future MSU student follows musical passion despite his physical disability.
Whenever Dorvé plays the trumpet, there often is the presence of a memory from a vacation he took along the Haitian countryside — his native country — when he was 5 years old with his grandmother. After taking a fall and breaking his arm, his grandmother was afraid to take him to a hospital for fear of his mother finding out, so he was taken to a healer for treatment, leading to an infection in his arm.
He said doctors determined that his arm needed to be amputated to prevent the infection from spreading to the rest of his body and killing him.
For Dorvé, a Flint, Mich., resident and future student in the College of Music, overcoming barriers and silencing critics is important in his pursuit of being the world’s best trumpet player.
“I seen so many other kids playing trumpet, and I said I want to do it (too),” Dorvé said. “My goal was to try to be better than all of the other students — that’s why I focused on it.”
He recalls growing up in Haiti, playing with the other children in his neighborhood to prove that he was no different than they were. As he developed an interest in the trumpet at age 12, he was told by instructors he never would be able to play the instrument because of his inability to balance it like the other students.
But Dorvé never let his handicap affect his aspirations.
A nation ravaged
After Dorvé graduated from high school, he attended college at Ecole Supérieure d’Infotronique d’Haiti, near Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He started teaching music at École de Musique Sainte Trinité in Haiti when he was 25 and was given the opportunity to come to the U.S. and study music in 2010 at Mott Community College in Flint.
Within a week of Dorvé’s arrival, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake ravaged Haiti and left many of his family and friends without food and shelter.
“It was like a horrible dream that I didn’t believe,” Dorvé said. “I couldn’t really communicate with any of my friends and family in Haiti (to) know how they are. It was kind of hard for me to handle that.”
Instead of heading home to a nation in ruins and facing limited funds, Dorvé made the difficult choice to stay in the U.S. and pursue an education.
Richard Illman, a trumpet faculty member in the College of Music, said he received a call about a remarkable trumpet player at Mott Community College and brought him in for an audition.
Illman said Dorvé’s passion and skill impressed the music faculty, which led to Illman’s interest in bringing him to MSU on a music scholarship for fall 2011.
To help cover some of Dorvé’s expenses, including his room and board, Illman actively has been looking for fundraising opportunities and playing benefit concerts with Dorvé to raise money.
“People have been trying to talk him out of playing the trumpet since he wanted to play it,” Illman said. “He just does what he has to do. (He’s) a remarkable person and it’s been a lot of fun for me — you just have to figure that he’s going to succeed.”
Next to the couch in his small house in a weathered Flint neighborhood sits a music stand with various pieces of music sprawled across it. On the other side of the room is a plastic cabinet with several full books of difficult music that Dorvé practices over and over again.
Gripped tightly in his hand is a silver trumpet as he buzzes his lips and prepares to display his ability.
Dorvé said coming to MSU will provide him with the opportunity to work with other gifted musicians and push him towards being the best trumpet player in the world.
“I always intend to be on the top,” Dorvé said.
“When I know somebody who practices two hours, I practice three or four. If something is hard, you need more practice.”
Paul Adams, a Flint resident and member of Calvary United Methodist Church in Flint, said Dorvé’s hard work has not gone unnoticed.
Adams came across Dorvé in church one afternoon and said the church echoed a beautiful sound bellowing from the back pew, where he turned to see a beaming Dorvé sitting and playing his trumpet.
Adams said he and several other people in Flint have been giving Dorvé rides back and forth to East Lansing and various other appointments to help him out.
For Adams, helping Dorvé comes as a second nature to most people who have seen him struggle and want him to be successful.
“People are excited for him to go the university, and get an education (to) further his trumpet playing,” Adams said. “People see him as an exciting prospect and worthy of support.”
Determination is key
For Dorvé, being handicapped is more of a state of mind than a fate to which he is resigned. He said having one arm has not prevented him from doing what he wants to do, and there’s rarely a time when he feels handicapped by his situation.
By holding the trumpet with his two fingers on his left hand and maintaining a constant grip while allowing his other three fingers to flow through the notes, Dorvé rose to the top of his class in Haiti and he hopes for the same result at MSU.
Ronald Junttonen, a Lansing resident and the prosthetist working with Dorvé, said most of the patients he treats are amputees because of disease, and most need lower extremity prosthetics.
Junttonen said he was amazed when Dorvé brought his trumpet to his first appointment and played difficult music by ear and memory. He said having a prosthetic arm will help Dorvé balance the instrument and potentially become a better player.
“He doesn’t have a right arm so he’s not only holding the horn, but operating the horn with one hand,” Junttonen said.
“I believe the prosthesis will help him, but his motivation will help him the most.”
Dorvé said he hopes to return to Haiti someday to teach music. For the time being, Dorvé is focused on his raising money to fulfill his musical dreams and gradually improving his ability on trumpet to quiet the critics for good.
“If there’s the will, there’s the way — that’s what I have,” Dorvé said.
“If you have the determination and the will, you can overcome any difficulties.”