Trained in the art of classical piano beginning at the age of four, Fleisher debuted on stage at Carnegie Hall in 1944. Over the next 20 years, he performed in concert halls around the world en route to becoming known as one of the premier classical pianists of the 20th century. Then in the mid-1960s, his career was tragically interrupted when he was stricken in his right hand with focal dystonia, a crippling neurological disorder that caused the muscles in his hand to contract and become misshapen.
Decades of grueling practice and performing on the piano, beginning at the age of four years old, resulted in Fleisher's suffering from focal dystonia. Focal dystonia is a particular form of the disorder that most commonly affects people who perform repetitive and synchronous movements over a long period of time. Although musicians are among the most commonly affected by the disorder, it also occurs with great frequency among dentists, surgeons, writers and others who depend on using their fine motor skills.
Fleisher's latest involvement on behalf of dystonia patients is in the launch of the Freedom to Play campaign, an effort by the Musicians with Dystonia program and sponsored by the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation to raise awareness of dystonia, reduce the stigma associated with the condition and urge sufferers worldwide to seek help. Fleisher is serving as primary spokesman of the new campaign, which was launched March 30-31 in New York.