WACO, Texas (KWTX) A 16-year-old Central Texas girl born with a disability that left her with 3 fingers on one hand, none of which are regular sized, says she doesn’t consider her condition a disability at all and in fact uses it to motivate her as she “wows” crowds across the nation as one of the best of the best violists.
Gina Gravagne, a Waco area resident who is home-schooled, performed over the weekend with the Texas All-State Symphony Orchestra in San Antonio at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center as part of the 2019 Texas Music Educators Association Clinic & Convention. (Courtesy photo)
Gina Gravagne, a Waco area resident who is home-schooled, performed over the weekend with the Texas All-State Symphony Orchestra in San Antonio at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center as part of the 2019 Texas Music Educators Association Clinic & Convention.
She was one of only 1,700 students selected from more than 70,000 statewide for the honor of performing in one of 15 ensembles including bands, orchestras and choirs.
It is the highest honor given to a Texas music student and this year marked the third time Gina was chosen.
Her weekend performance required nearly 20 hours of rehearsals in the three days leading up to the big performance.
“It’s one of the most remarkable experiences, just being a part of such an amazing symphony that can create music like that,” Gravange said.
“This is like a once-in-a-lifetime experience because that there are not ensembles like that that can come together and play that much and have such good quality music.”
Music has always been a way of life for the teenager from Chalk Bluff as she’s played the viola since she was 4.
But her parents were not sure at birth whether she’d be able to carry on the family tradition of playing an instrument after she was born with a rare congenital condition called symbrachydactyly, which left her without middle and ring fingers on her right hand and three others that weren’t normal.
Her right index finger has tiny piece of bone that makes it crooked and her pinky finger is a bit shorter.
She was also born with her thumb and index fingers connected until she had surgery at 20-months to separate them.
Without that surgery, she says, she’d have never been able to play the viola.
But none of that matters to Gina who says she can not only compete with the best today, but also, most of the time, forgets she’s any different from any other musicians adding she has “just the right amount of fingers and grip strength to hold a bow.”
“Actually half the time I forget about it,” she said.
“It’s been called a disability before but I don’t think about like that at all. To me it’s just a difference. It’s unique. And when I can do the same things other people can do it makes me feel really capable. I figure that anything anyone can do I figure out a way to do, too.”
Gina’s resume is long and impressive. She is the principal viola of the Waco Symphony Youth Orchestra. She was a soloist with the Albuquerque Philharmonic in 2017, a member of the All-State Symphony Orchestra 2018, 2019 and 2020. She practices every day and studies viola at the Central Texas String Academy under the direction of Dr. Julia Hardie.
Gina ALSO auditioned this year for a national youth orchestra.
She says she hopes her story of using what she was born with, her “small hand” as she calls it, to do big things will encourages everyone to dream big and not let a challenge come in the way of achieving amazing things.
“I just think everyone should be able to play music if they want to because it’s an emotional outlet for me,” she said.
“I didn’t really pick this instrument but I’ve grown to love it over the years. I have a passion for it. I used to think about quitting and I realized a few months ago if I would have quit I would have never made the greatest memories of my life I have now.”
“I have people tell me I’m an inspiration but I do it because I love music and if that helps someone else that’s even better.”