Young Violinist Warms Hearts at Thanksgiving Recital
There wasn’t a dry eye in the house on Nov. 22 when 13-year-old Caesar Sant performed in the Clinical Research Center atrium. Each sweet note of his violin was a celebration of life.
Two months earlier, Sant had a bone marrow transplant at NIH to potentially cure him of sickle cell anemia, a chronically painful blood disorder.
“Even when Caesar was in pain, he practiced the violin,” recounted his father, Lucas. “He found strength to hold it and play as if he wasn’t sick. It brought immediate relief for many hours. I’m always saying the violin helped to save his life.”
Caesar took up violin at age 2 and already was playing concertos by age 4. Then, over an 18-month period, he suffered multiple strokes. The third and last one was life-threatening and left him temporarily paralyzed. He had to relearn to walk and how to play violin.
Now, infused with bone marrow donated by his 6-year-old sister Helen, Caesar’s skin and lips are taking on a rosy hue. At the Clinical Center concert, his father beamed: “My boy is strong, and he is free of pain.”
Caesar opened the recital with Bach’s Air followed by Ave-Maria and several other classical pieces, accompanied on piano by Robert Masi, a postbac cancer research fellow.
Dozens of patients, doctors and staff gathered around, distanced and masked, along with many listening in awe from the hallways above.
“Caesar is one resilient young man who, despite [his illness] has become quite the violin virtuoso,” said NIH director Dr. Francis Collins, who joined Caesar on guitar on Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, Malotte’s The Lord’s Prayer and You Raise Me Up by Brendan Graham. Responding to calls for an encore, Caesar played Bach’s Partita No. 1.
A grateful Lucas said, “I am forever an ambassador for NIH and the Children’s Inn,” where the two have resided for several months while Caesar underwent treatment at the Clinical Center.
After the performance, asked how he was feeling, Caesar exclaimed, “I feel great!”
The next day, Collins sent a Thanksgiving email to all NIH staff: “Caesar’s story is a stirring reminder of the fragility of human life and the gift of medical research...I am heartened to know that Caesar will go on to bless so many others with his extraordinary gift.”
For more, see: https://caesarviolin.com/