The advanced orchestra at Palmetto Senior High School in Pinecrest Village doesn’t usually accept freshmen, but the band director made an exception for the exceptional redheaded violin player, Daniel Solomon.
“I think of myself as an advocate for people with disabilities,” Daniel said.
You have to look carefully to realize the boy with the thick glasses is legally blind. Daniel is the freshman class treasurer, always busy, always finding ways to navigate the challenges of high school.
“I always sit in the front, in the front seat and usually I still have trouble seeing the board,” Daniel explained.
So to compensate, he takes pictures of the board and his textbooks and puts them through a magnifying app on his phone. To play his violin, Daniel uses a tablet to enlarge his sheet music, which he color-codes in advance.
“And so when I’m playing it, I know, purple, that means this, yellow, that means I have to do this, so I’ve kind of made my own music language, I guess,” Daniel said.
His friends notice Daniel’s ingenuity and his relentless positivity and it inspires them.
“Yeah, I think it does because it shows that no matter what’s wrong with you, that nothing can stop you, you can still be like a normal child, have a normal childhood,” said classmate Arin Khanna.
“He even inspires me because he always is helping other people, even if he doesn’t have to,” added another of Daniel’s classmates, A.J. Amster.
In seventh and eighth grades at Palmetto Middle School, Daniel organized band concerts which raised over $5,000 for his school’s music program. He’s in the midst of organizing a bigger event this year, and he also started a mentoring program, persuading his orchestra peers to visit middle school musicians every week.
“Later on when the middle school students come to high school, they’ll have a friend here and they’ll have someone they can look up to for advice,” Daniel said. “It’s kind of a way of giving back for all the help that people have given me.”
One thing you’ll never from Daniel is any kind of moping about his condition, about the unfair hand life has dealt him. He has a unique way of seeing the world.
“I love puzzles, I love solving puzzles, I love Sudoku, and I really do think of this as a puzzle, I think of it as saying yes, I have a disability, and yes, now I get to do this differently,” he said.
His orchestra teacher says Daniel is a role model.
“My favorite thing is when kids complain about something they can’t do, I always tell them there are plenty of people in this world that do just fine, and I think he is very much a testament to that,” said Jorge Padron, the conductor.
It’s part of Daniel’s philosophy, another element of this young man’s personality that makes him wise beyond his years.
“It’s not about sitting there and moping about why you have this or why this happened to you, it’s about turning your disability into a 'diversability,'” Daniel said, perhaps coining a new word.
He may not perceive every detail, but Daniel clearly sees what’s important in life.