St. Hubert students and staff received quite a treat on Friday with a performance by singer/guitarist Tony Melendez, who plays the instrument with his feet, as he was born without arms.
Melendez was born in Nicaragua. His mom was dealing with morning sickness during the pregnancy, and was prescribed a drug that caused the unborn baby to lose his arms.
Meléndez, who later moved to the United States, taught himself to play guitar with his feet, placing the pick between his toes. He began performing in Southern California and became a worldwide figure on Sept. 15, 1987, when, at age 25, he sang Never Be the Same during a special performance for Pope John Paul II, who was in Los Angeles.
Melendez showed the video of that performance at St. Hubert, and the students and staff got to see the pope get out of his chair and kiss Melendez, telling him he is a courageous young man who gives hope.
Today, Melendez is 59 and lives in Branson, Missouri. He’s performed in 44 countries and all 50 states. His brother Jose helps out with sound and other parts of his shows, including throwing a Frisbee to his brother, who caught it between his neck and cheek.
At St. Hubert, he performed Jingle Bells, Joy to the World, Feliz Navidad, Your Grace is Enough and Hail Mary. The girls sang and clapped along, some at their seats and others on stage with Melendez, and did The Wave. Melendez told them to give each other a “low five” with their feet.
Students presented Melendez with a gift bag and a “Welcome to St. Hubert” sign with Nicaraguan and American flags.
After performing at St. Hubert, Melendez entertained at the Commodore John Barry Award Dinner, honoring Archbishop Nelson Perez. St. Hubert board member Pat Ciarrocchi, a former Channel 3 news personality, arranged for Melendez to appear at the school and award dinner. ••