Guitarist Tony Melendez brings his message of hope to Toronto Oct. 24. Photo courtesy of Tony Melendez

Melendez strums a message of hope

  • October 18, 2014

TORONTO - Armless guitarist Tony Melendez wants audiences to walk away from his performances with hope.

Melendez, who plays the acoustic guitar with his feet, says at first audiences may just see a man with no arms, but two songs into his set, they’re wrapped up in the music and “that’s where the whole inspiration-hope part steps in.”

Melendez will be performing in Toronto on Oct. 24 to help raise funds for El Sembrador Ministry for Mexican migrant farm workers in Ontario’s Holland Marsh area. The ministry is made up of Spanish and English-speaking Catholics who provide pastoral and spiritual assistance to these workers, as well as helping them facilitate their lives as they face language and cultural barriers in Canada.

“Tony Melendez is no stranger to what it is like to feel like an outsider, not only as someone who is perceived to have a disability, but also as an immigrant to North America. Tony is able to communicate his message of hope in both languages, English and Spanish. He is the perfect artist for this event,” said Deacon Pedro Guevara-Mann of Holy Martyrs of Japan parish in Bradford, Ont. El Sembrador, which translates as The Sower, is run out of his parish.

“I know there’s a great need,” said Melendez. “There needs to be a support for immigrants, not just the Latinos, but from other areas too, and they’re looking for work and I think we need to step in and try to help.”

Melendez moved from Nicaragua to the United States at age one with his family. He was born without arms because his mother was prescribed Thalidomide for morning sickness. Refusing to wear prosthetic arms, he learned how to play the guitar with his toes. At age 25, he performed for Pope John Paul II in Los Angeles in 1987. The pope “jumped off the stage and kissed me,” he said, essentially launching Melendez’s career. At age 52, he says music has helped him pray, dance, travel and take care of his wife and two kids. He currently resides in Branson, Missouri.

In Toronto, he will be performing with Roland Guerrero, who plays classical guitar and drums, and Pat Smith who plays keyboard and electric and acoustic guitars. Melendez jokes that he can play a variety of music from the Lord’s Prayer to La Bamba. He hopes audiences see a man with no arms and say, “If he can do all that, I can do more.” “Tony’s message is for everyone,” said Guevara-Mann. “We all need inspiration and hope. And we all need to know that the source of that hope is Jesus Christ.”

Melendez will perform at St. Michael’s College School Centre for the Arts, 1515 Bathurst St. Tickets cost $30-35. Visit 

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