Warren teen pianist who played Carnegie to perform at Warren festival Saturday
By Ed Runyan
Darrius Simmons, 15, a Warren G. Harding High School student with four fingers, played piano at Carnegie Hall in New York a month ago. On Saturday, he’ll show people close to home his inspiring talent.
Simmons was featured on NBC News and 21 WFMJ-TV, The Vindicator’s broadcast partner, when he played alongside world-renowned Korean pianist Yiruma, who invited Simmons to perform after Yiruma viewed Simmons’ talents in a video.
Simmons will play at the Trumbull County African American Achievers Association annual festival at 6 p.m. Saturday in Courthouse Square.
Simmons was born with fewer fingers than most people and without the bones below his knees, but he taught himself how to play the piano, even making his prosthetic legs work the piano’s pedals.
Simmons likes the Yiruma song “River Flows In You” and played it on a video. It led Yiruma to invite Simmons to play at Yiruma’s show at Carnegie Hall.
After watching Darrius play in person, Yiruma said, “It’s just amazing. How can you do that? All those jumps. You must find it really difficult?” Darrius replied: “It’s not that difficult to me, honestly,” according to WFMJ.
You’d never know the two first met about an hour before the show, collaborating on the self-titled song Darrius wrote, the TV station reported.
Two of the festival’s organizers, Franky Parker and Gwenn Morgan, talked Thursday about how proud they are of Simmons’ accomplishments and discussed the part they played in helping him get the piano he now plays.
Parker works security on the first floor of the high school and met Simmons there, learning that Simmons wished for a better piano.
Parker made Morgan aware of it a couple weeks ago, and Morgan gave Simmons a piano from a studio in Warren that she bought many years ago for her daughter, Dana Kristina-Joi Morgan, a classical pianist from Washington, D.C.
“Once I saw him, he just blew me away,” Gwenn Morgan said of Simmons. “And he plays classical, and that’s a difficult genre.”
Gwenn Morgan has been involved with the festival since 1992 and organizes the Saturday parade and the Gospel Sunday program.
But she finds black history to be another significant part of the festival, which starts at noon Friday and wraps up at 11 p.m. Sunday. There is no admission charge.
“Black history is our heritage, and we have to preserve our history because our ancestors provided us with legacy through struggle and pain that we can enjoy the things we have today,” she said.