Wake up with a Smile

Join our newsletter

A Neurological Condition Stole A World-Renowned Pianist’s Ability To Play—Until He Received Special Gloves—Listen To Him Now 

pianist glove

In 1998, award-winning pianist João Carlos Martins believed he had played his final concert after a neurological condition took the use of his right hand. But science stepped in and gave him a second chance.

João had suffered from focal dystonia for much of his career. While he still managed to become well-respected and play for dignitaries around the world, he had to deal with involuntary spasms and excruciating pain in his hand.

The symptoms worsened over the years. And when he was 58, he made the difficult decision to have his ulnar nerve cut. Because the nerve controls the muscles in his forearm and hand, he was forced to give up his passion. So he gave what he believed would be his last performance then switched careers to become a conductor.

“If a camera had been in front of the piano, it would have seen tears running from my eyes,” he told the New York Post. “I knew that three days after the concert, I would lose [use of] my right hand.” 

More than 20 years later, science stepped in and gave João Carlos Martins the ability to play once more.

Legendary Pianist Is Preparing For His Farewell Concert

In 2020, an automotive designer named Ubiratan Bizarro Costapianist gave João a pair of “bionic” gloves that were designed to restore the use of his hands. The pianist was not convinced the gloves were the answer to his prayers. But he still gave them a chance.

He and Ubiratan worked together to perfect the technology. And when they were finished, João was able to sit at the piano and play his favorite pieces.

“I could not imagine that I was touching the keyboard with my 10 fingers again,” he shared. “The first thing I did was play a Chopin Nocturne, then Bach, and then—I went all the way. I could not wait.” 

João sobbed during his first return to the piano. While he only considers himself to be 10% the musician he used to be, he still had the talent and technique that made him famous as a young man.

João went on to play at Carnegie Hall in November 2022, 60 years after making his iconic debut there at 21. And he’s continued to play and help scientists perfect the gloves that could help “neurologists to find a solution for focal dystonia for musicians.”

Now in his 80s João Carlos Martins is working to complete his goal of playing all of Bach’s works. But he will soon retire from the stage. On May 9, 2025, João will make one last stop at Carnegie Hall to play his farewell concert.

You can find the source of this story’s featured image here.

Want to be happier in just 5 minutes a day? Sign up for Morning Smile and join over 455,000+ people who start each day with good news.