Ivan Varenikov lives in Siberia. He contends that, aside from all the stereotypes of bitter cold and wild bears, Siberia is also deficient in terms of music. “After the disintegration of the Soviet Union the culture of music was lost,” he explains. Classical music prevails in the country. But he describes the pop music scene as trite, talentless, and underdeveloped. It’s for this reason that Varenikov decided to post his videos on YouTube and try to attract an English-speaking audience. This would be a challenging task for any 19-year-old Russian musician, but he’s not just any musician. Varenikov has one hand.
Inspired by a video of a musician performing “The Final Countdown” on the Internet, he decided to start playing piano. “I didn’t think of obstacles, such as having one hand, I simply wanted to play,” says Varenikov, who received his piano in the final weeks of 2012.
“I was infinitely happy,” he says. However, his happiness was short-lived when his father suddenly passed away. “After that my childhood ended and I started to grow wiser very quickly,” Varenikov says. After losing his father, he had about a year of procrastination and negativity. He found it hard to communicate his emotions and withdrew into his music, teaching himself to play more and more difficult works.
“I was called to play in schools and conservatories, but it is difficult for me to play what and when people tell me to play,” he says. “After I learned to play all the songs that I liked, I began to compose my own. Step-by-step, I began to improvise more, and launched a channel on YouTube. I followed examples of great composers and created my own personal style.”
Varenikov says that it is difficult to make his family understand his passion for music, and they would prefer he take on “serious” work. Despite this, he is encouraged by the messages he receives about his videos from people all over the world. He has had hundreds of thousands of views. “I want to show to others that, even with one hand, people can live and create,” he says.