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Graduate Student Overcomes Many Obstacles to Become In-Demand Trumpeter

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Carlot Dorve

Not many Penn State students arrive on campus having already been in a commercial. But Carlot Dorvé is an exception—in more ways than one.

A trumpeter and graduate student in music performance, Dorvé was selected to play the trumpet in a commercial for the 2016 Paralympic Games. Titled “Yes I Can” and produced by Channel 4 in the United Kingdom, the commercial features individuals with disabilities showing they can do anything—including playing the trumpet with one arm.

Dorvé, who grew up in the mountains of rural Haiti, had his right arm amputated when he was 5, after an injury led to a serious infection. As a child, he was regularly told he couldn’t do things, like riding a bike or swimming. But he always found a way.

Dorvé was introduced to the trumpet in Port-au-Prince, where performing on the streets was common. His teachers continually told him he couldn’t play the trumpet with one arm, but he proved everyone wrong. He eventually won scholarships that allowed him to attend a private school in Haiti, and he later played with Haiti’s largest orchestra.

In 2010, Dorvé participated in a four-month cultural exchange at Mott Community College in Flint, Mich. An alumnus of Michigan State University heard him play at a church concert and recommended he play for the music department at the university. Soon after he was offered a full scholarship. Dorvé graduated with a B.A. in music performance in 2016.

He earned his degree, but missed the graduation ceremony. The invitation to perform in the Paralympics commercial came just days before the ceremony, and he had to hop on a plane immediately.

Producing the commercial was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, Dorvé said. “It was motivating to play with other musicians with physical disabilities. People always say we cannot—but we prove them wrong.”

A graduate assistant at Penn State, Dorvé teaches trumpet and performs in several ensembles. He tries to return to Haiti yearly to teach at music camps, because that is where he learned to play. He also speaks at schools for students with disabilities.

“Music is something that can keep people motivated,” he said. “I grew up very poor, and did not have much hope. But I was motivated. I knew that if I worked hard, doors would open no matter what. I used my music to make it through.”

For more information on Carlot, check out his website, carlotdorve.com, or the book, From Trauma to Triumph: The Carlot Dorvé Story, available on Amazon.

This story, by Amy Milgrub Marshall, originally appeared in the 2017 edition of the College of Arts and Architecture annual magazine.