“Until a few years ago, few things in life gave me more joy and pleasure than being able to sit down at my grand piano and play my favorite songs or something that I had just heard on the radio, in my own style,” said Barry Wright of Nashville, Arkansas. “Music has always been part of my life.”
As a young child, Barry would harmonize with his siblings and play the piano by ear. He took piano lessons for several years, took up guitar, played a trombone in the marching band, and was always active in music programs at his church. Although he also loved football as a teenager, his love for music, especially piano, never waived.
“I never stopped learning,” he said. “I participated in a variety of church music activities, provided music for countless numbers of weddings, receptions, and other functions, always adding my own embellishments to any piece of music.”
Things changed drastically when Barry received a diagnosis of ALS in 2014. “My arms, hands, and fingers were already losing strength and dexterity at a very rapid pace,” he said. “The last time I was able to perform in public was at the wedding of my dear sweet niece in the spring of 2015. I had to sell my beautiful grand piano to make room for an adjustable bed on the ground level of our home. Since that time, other than listening, my music was gone forever.”
However, just two months Barry had a brilliant idea. The majority of his body is paralyzed due to ALS so he uses a sophisticated speech and eye-gaze computer device called a PRC Accent 1400. His eye movement acts as the mouse so he can communicate, research, e-mail, use social media and more. And now, this same device would be the avenue that could bring back a passion for playing music that Barry never dreamed could happen again.
“I had heard of computerized programs that helped people compose music, and wondered, why couldn’t this work on my eye-gaze?” He spent $50 on a software called Noteworthy Composer and had it installed on his PRC device.
“The first order of business was to produce an arrangement of the hymn, Tell Me the Story of Jesus, that had been in my brain for three years or longer. It was actually scheduled to be performed by a friend of mine on Easter Sunday, prior to COVID-19 fiasco.”
Everyone is so amazed to hear how much this eye-tracking technique of playing the piano sounds so much like his original talent. His wife, Shirley, suggested that he produce music for their only daughter’s upcoming wedding. It’s truly a gift uncovered.
This is Barry’s version of The Prayer by Celine Dion. Close your eyes and listen, and keep in mind every piano sound you hear was created by Barry through his eyes.
Barry & his family are very active in the Central Arkansas Walk to Defeat ALS as well. Please take a minute to visit their team's walk page: Step WRIGHT Up