Why he’s interesting: Simmons was born with three fingers on his right hand and one on his left and had his legs amputated from the knees down at 18-months-old. But none of that has stopped him from following his passions — and there’s a lot of them. At 15, he recorded himself covering famous South Korean pianist Yiruma’s “The River Flows In You” and posted it on Facebook. It went viral and caught the attention of many news stations. Yiruma even invited Simmons to play with him at Carnegie Hall, inspiring thousands of people and lighting a fire inside Simmons to help others overcome their obstacles.
Right Key: Simmons fell in love with the sound of the piano at age 10. He loved the instrument’s range and taught himself how to play on his church’s piano. As he got older, he listened to songs obsessively, playing the notes until he got it right — no sheet music required. “I started out learning scales and practicing those a lot.”
Stage Presence: Simmons and Yiruma met an hour before the pianist’s Carnegie Hall show to prepare to perform one of Simmons’ original songs together. “I wasn’t nervous at all. I knew what I had to do and I was either going to do it or I wasn’t. I have nerves of steel.”
Ear Drum: Although he learned to play by ear, Simmons has another reason as to why he prefers to play without sheet music. “I like to play what’s off the page. The music and what the composer thought the music should be is on the page, but what I think the music should be is off of it. That’s why I let my ears tell me how to play.”
More Than Music: Simmons knows he’s a talented pianist and wants to continue, but there’s another passion pulling at his heartstrings. “I want to be like a motivational speaker. I want to travel around the world and show people with more than just my music that you can turn something like a disability that seems so bad into something that can make so many people happy. That’s my goal every day: to make at least one person smile.
Fashion Forward: Simmons has a keen eye for fashion — and a closet full of Ralph Lauren shirts and gold jewelry. The senior at Warren G. Harding High School cites PontiacMadeDDG, a YouTube star who has earned almost 1.5 million subscribers, as his fashion icon. He’s even got his dream closet all planned out. “Oh, it would be full of Versace, Balenciaga, Dolce & Gabbana, and of course some Ralph Lauren. And lots of diamonds and gold — white gold, yellow gold, all of it.”
Interesting Fact: 164,000+: Number of views his cover of Yiruma’s “The River Flows In You” has on his YouTube channel.