10-year-old with disability learning to play flute with help of former musician

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by CARLA WADE

Bio | Email | Follow: @CarlaNWade

WFAA

Posted on October 4, 2013 at 11:07 PM

Updated Saturday, Oct 5 at 2:54 PM

DENTON -- Abby Gieseke was born without a fully-developed left hand. For years she's wanted to play a two-handed instrument -- the flute.

She knew it would be hard, but at just 10 years old, she's already learned that when you can't change your circumstances, you change your attitude.

"I've always found my own ways to do other things that other people can do. And so I knew I would eventually find a way to do it,” Abby said after a day of practice at The First Baptist Church in Denton Friday afternoon.

Abby’s mother began looking online for a way to help her daughter. She even called people in other countries.

One man offered to make a flute that Abby could play, but it would cost $20,000. That was way more than the family could afford to spend.

After searching the internet for a solution, Abby's mom contacted retired musician and instrument repairman Clarence Wood or "Woody," as friends call him.

He’s lived in North Texas for decades and used to own a repair shop. He got his first instrument, a clarinet, when he was just nine years old.

“I first thought 'That's an impossible thing to do,' because someone with no fingers on her left hand can't possibly play a flute, but she was determined to play a flute,” Wood said.

So he became equally determined to help. He knows something about being strong willed.

It was his frustration with a saxophone repair many years ago that led him to begin fixing instruments.

“I took it to a repair shop in Houston and when I got it back, it was in worse shape than when I sent it,” Wood said. “So I decided to piddle around with it and fixed it myself.”

Since Abby can’t hold a flute with both hands, he designed a stand to grip the instrument and hold it steady. Then, he redesigned the flute itself, realigning the holes to line up with fingers she can use, while maintaining the accuracy of the notes.

“Because the fingering is not anywhere similar to regular flute fingers," he explained," I had to play it myself and work out each note to see which keys to push and pull.”

Less than a week after getting her custom-made flute, Abby is already playing simple tunes.

“I just jumped for joy. I'm so happy,” Wood said while watching Abby rehearse.

Abby is already proving that by choosing to focus on what she has instead of focusing on what she doesn't, she can strike just the right note.

E-mail cwade@wfaa.com

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