Strumming a guitar is something Dillon Gazandlare finds himself doing fairly regularly.
The teen from Wollaston Lake, Sask., is always ready to perform, even if he does feel butterflies before stepping on stage.
But it wasn’t so long ago where Dillon wasn’t able to play more than five or six songs at a time.
“I didn’t have a prosthetic so I (used) my stump to kind of pick it, which after about 10-20 minutes of playing would really start to hurt,” he said.
Dillon was born without his left forearm, which made learning to play an instrument extremely difficult.
But he wasn’t going to let that stop him. Dillon built an extension for his stump with a pick attached to the end.
It allows him to play the guitar without pain or discomfort.
“When I first made it, I had this green carpenters tape. It’s kind of thin, so I used that and paper and I wrapped it around a couple of times. Then I kept adding on more and more to make it (sturdier). That’s where I’m at today with probably I don’t know how many rolls of duct tape into that,” Dillon said.
He’s always had a passion for music, but has taken around 18 months to teach himself how to play guitar.
This is no surprise to his mom, who has seen him reach several milestones single-handed.
“I thought it was going to be difficult for him because of his amputation. But he’s shown me over the years even by learning how to crawl and even learning how to ride a bike that nothing is going to stop him,” Darlene Gazandlare said.
Dillon is also teaching himself to play piano, ukulele and the drums.
The extension has given Dillon a second wind to pursue his passion.
“Without it, I personally don’t think I’d get very far in music,” he said.
“Without it last year, I probably would have given up on guitar and just given up on music in general.”
One Saskatoon music teacher is impressed after seeing some of the videos of Dillon performing his left-handed guitar.
Richard Dubé has taught several students with physical challenges, but says Dillon’s passion to succeed is phenomenal.
“I’m just blown away. I think it’s amazing. To have a disability or a challenge like that and to just figure it out yourself … that he actually figured out how to get an attachment to his arm on his own so that it would work to play guitar, I think is fantastic,” said the music teacher at Saskatoon’s École Canadienne-française.
Dillon’s mom said music saved his life.
He is the only amputee in Wollaston Lake and was bullied at school.
A workshop geared towards giving children self-confidence helped him and it’s where he discovered his love of the guitar.
“I don’t know how to explain it, but I can basically say it saved his life because it showed him that there’s a passion,” Darlene said.
It’s a passion Dillon wants to follow as far as he can.