Bright future ahead for Dubai pianist

Although Victoria Canal was born with only one full functioning arm, it hasn't stopped the 14 year old from advancing fast in the world of music.
Victoria Canal, a 9th Grade student at GEMS World Academy, plays the piano. Razan Alzayani / The National
Victoria Canal, a 9th Grade student at GEMS World Academy, plays the piano. Razan Alzayani / The National

While most teenagers will be heading off on holiday with their families or enjoying plenty of downtime with their friends this July, the 14-year old Victoria Canal has very different plans.

“I’ll be concentrating on learning, this summer,” says the budding singer-songwriter. “I was the only student to have been given a scholarship to attending Berklee College of Music in the United States and I’ll complete a full semester from the college curriculum.”

A 9th grade international baccalaureate student at GEMS World Academy in Dubai, Canal’s musical epiphany happened when she was just 6 years old.

“I had been playing the piano since I was 4 and one day I heard Michael Jackson’s song Man in the Mirror,” she says. “I thought it was something entirely new and I wanted to play it by ear. So that’s when I knew.”

Canal was born with one fully functioning arm, amniotic band syndrome having restricted blood-supply to the other in the womb. Far from stifling her ambitions of becoming a successful pianist, it served to strengthen her resolve.

“I play with both hands,” she says. “When I started having piano lessons, my teacher taught me how to play left-handed and had planned my future around left-handed pieces. I’m very grateful my mum encouraged me to use both hands instead, because when I eventually did, it worked to my advantage.”

With many public concerts to her name, most recently at Dubai’s Bo House cafe, Canal has learnt how to field questions about her unique style of playing.

“Little kids always ask: ‘What happened to your arm?’” she says. “I just explain that it happened at birth. Most adults are polite and respectful. If they ask, I’m perfectly fine with that. When I tell them, they say: ‘Oh, I’m sorry,’ and I’ll say: ‘There’s no reason to be sorry, I’m perfectly fine and don’t feel any different.’”

Canal credits her positive attitude and self-confidence to her parents and one other musical mentor.

“His name is Matthew Langridge,” she says. “He’s my teacher at school and he’s also my guitarist at gigs. He has really helped me to advance a lot.”

Advancement for Canal has now reached the point where she’s laying down a demo track with the Dubai-based producers JR Studios. The hope is that her collection of eight sample songs will one day land on the desk of an influential record producer.

“The songs are my genre, meaning it’s a love album, very calm, soothing like a lullaby,” she says. “I’d consider myself successful as long as I’m enjoying what I’m doing and there are many people I’d like to work with in the future. People who share the same passion for music and songwriting such as John Mayer, Jason Mraz and Ed Sheeran, for example.”

There’s no denying that Canal is a well-grounded young lady with her eye on the prize. She’s also acutely PR savvy, having secured herself prime-time performance slots on TV channels from Dubai One to MBC1.

Despite a taste of regional fame, the teenager is mindful of not pushing her professional plans too hard, too fast.

“I’m always thinking about my career and what comes next,” she says, “but I want to take the opportunities that come along in my stride. University is on the cards for me and I may even study business and law before exploring my music. There’s still time.”

After Canal completes her five-week music course in Boston next month, she’ll be heading to Barcelona to perform at a music –festival.

When it comes to how her parents are handling requests for foreign travel and study sabbaticals, Canal admits she owes them a debt of gratitude.

“It’s always been my family’s way to travel around the world,” she says. “My father works very hard and has a great job which means he’s able to help us with all these opportunities and avenues we want to take. My mother and father are willing to fund all that. They really do a very good job of investing in our futures.”


• Check out Victoria’s performance on MBC1 at Check out and and add her on Twitter: @vickycanal

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Published: June 15, 2013 04:00 AM


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