disabled pianists to play n.y.
the yomiuri shimbun

japanese young people with various physical disabilities will play piano in an event at the u.n. headquarters on dec. 3, and then at a concert in carnegie hall in new york two days later.  

the u.n. event aims to convey the message that people with disabilities are not limited in their capabilities. the young people involved are all looking forward to the performances at the famous venues.  

the u.n. event was organized by the institute of piano teachers & disabled in japan--a group led by tokio sakoda, a former assistant professor at musashino academia musicae, which trains piano instructors for disabled people.  

in yokohama in january 2005, the group held the first piano paralympics--a piano contest for japanese and overseas performers with physical disabilities. the group plans a second piano paralympics in vancouver in 2009.  

to promote their activities, sakoda asked the united nations via a u.s. acquaintance whether the world body could provide an opportunity for a piano performance. this ultimately led to an invitation to hold a performance as part of events for the international day of disabled persons on dec. 3.  

in addition, sakoda discovered that the carnegie hall happened to be free on dec. 5, and so organized a concert there.  

the u.n. event will feature performances by 14 men and women aged from 11 to 60 from eight countries, including japan, south korea and spain. in the carnegie hall concert, 24 people from nine countries will perform. the performers have various types of physical disabilities, including blindness, impaired hearing, or missing fingers or limbs.  

kai kobayashi, a 16-year-old high school girl from edogawa ward, tokyo, will perform in both events. she was born without three fingers on her left hand.  

when kobayashi was 4, she began playing around with an electric piano, and began full-fledged piano lessons at age 6.  

when she was in the second year of primary school, she became eager to perform chopin's etude op. 10, no. 12, known as the "revolutionary etude." determined to become able to play the work, she practiced hard, finally reaching the necessary level by the second year of middle school.  

for parts played with the left hand, she uses her thumb, little finger and the base of her forefinger. when four or five keys need to be pressed simultaneously, "i do it with slight time lags," kobayashi said.  

initially she found it hard to practice with her left hand, but says she now enjoys devising ways to play more smoothly.  

on nov. 2, the young people who are going to perform in new york showed the fruits of their hard practice in a performance at salamanca hall in the kenmin fureai kaikan cultural hall complex in gifu prefecture.  

an 11-year-old girl who lost her left arm from the elbow performed beethoven's "for elise," using her elbow to hit some keys. kobayashi skillfully performed numbers with a quick tempo, including pieces by mendelssohn.  

regarding the new york performances, kobayashi said: "i'm looking forward to playing. i'm already excited.  

"i don't want audiences to be impressed by the fact that i can perform despite lacking fingers. i hope that my performance will fascinate people purely with the way it sounds."  

according to the group, there is a lack of understanding of the needs of disabled people among piano instructors. there have been cases of handicapped people being turned away from piano lessons on the grounds that they cause problems for instructors.  

sakoda said, "disabilities are part of the performers' personality, and bring about performances full of creativity.  

"to increase the opportunities for disabled people to experience playing piano, i hope people around the world will listen to their excellent performances. i also want to raise awareness of the need to train instructors."  

(nov. 9, 2007)
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