Robbed of eyesight, pianist makes beautiful music

April 8, 2010 11:18:45 AM PDT
Macular degeneration has robbed a renowned concert pianist of her sight but not her ability to perform.

At 90 years old, Irene Alexander continues to perform around the city. She says her piano is her rock.

At Friedman Place on Chicago's North Side, residents in Irene Alexander's building are being entertained with beautiful music.

"I'm a classical pianist. When I could read music I could accompany anyone, a singer, a violinist, I could play show tunes. I love jazz, but I can't play jazz," Irene said.

Irene has been playing since she was 2 1/2 years old.

"It was right after I had polio; two weeks later I went to the piano after my mother played. We were back at my grandparents, and I walked to the piano and played what she did, and six months later I was in my first recital," said Irene.

At the age of 6 Irene performed for Queen Marie of Romania, and later she performed for Rachmaninoff.

Irene has been legally blind for 20 years.

"I never had problems playing the piano, and now, the age that I am, I don't have the stretch that I did to play octaves accurately," she said. "And, see, my two fingers, so if I wanna hit the correct key, it's a whole procedure, but it's wonderful I'm still playing the piano."

"I've had a very exciting life, some of it good, some of it not so good. I go to the piano, and that is me."

At 90, Irene has no plans of slowing down.

"Oh, my life is just beginning. This is just a new life for me. I have the energy, I have the ability, I have the desire to do one thing, to help people."