Nobuyuki Tsujii, piano

(Photo credit: Yuri Hori)

(Photo credit: Yuri Hori)

Happy 2014 to all our dear readers!!

I would like to begin the new year with an inspiring blog post which has little to do with food or music and much to do with the strength and beauty of the human spirit.

This is the story of Nobuyuki Tsujii.


 “There are no barriers in music”

~ Nobuyuki Tsujii, joint-gold medal winner
2009 Van Cliburn Piano Competition

Blind from birth, Nobuyuki Tsujii did not let visual impairment stop him from becoming the first Japanese and blind contestant to become the joint gold medal winner at the prestigious Van Cliburn Piano Competition in 2009.

In its 50-year history, the Cliburn Competition has discovered and encouraged a host of exceptional talents that include Barry Douglas, Olga Kern and Cristina Ortiz to name just a few. Founded by the legendary American concert pianist Van Cliburn who has since passed on in early 2013, the Van Cliburn Foundation continues its important work of nurturing young, talented musicians from around the world.

Nobuyuki Tsujii receiving his gold medal from the late Van Cliburn

Nobuyuki Tsujii receiving his gold medal from the late Van Cliburn (Photo credit: Van Cliburn Foundation &Altré MEDIA)

Arguably America’s greatest pianist, Van Cliburn became a cult hero when he won the first International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow on 14 April 1958 during the height of the Cold War and became an unofficial diplomat for the US.

“What a thrill to hear this brilliant, very gifted, fabulous pianist” Van Cliburn says after Nobu’s debut performance at New York’s Carnegie Hall on 10 November 2011.

“You can feel God’s presence in the room when he played, his soul is so pure, his music so wonderful, it goes to infinity, to the highest heaven” Van Cliburn added.

Winners: Silver medalist Yeol Eum Son with joint gold medalists Nobuyuki Tsujii and Haochen Zhang (Photo credit: Van Cliburn Foundation &Altré MEDIA)

Left to Right: Silver medalist Yeol Eum Son with joint gold medalists Nobuyuki Tsujii and Haochen Zhang (Photo credit: Van Cliburn Foundation &Altré MEDIA)

In the Cliburn Competition in 2009, he faced stiff competition from some of the world’s brightest young pianists. Nobu was eventually awarded joint gold medal winner with China’s Haochen Zhang while South Korea’s talented Yeol Eum Son took home the silver medal.

Nobuyuki Tsujii performs at Carnegie Hall aged 12

Fondly known as ‘Nobu’, the immensely talented 25-year old has a cult following in his native Japan.

In 1990 at the age of two, he began playing ‘Do Re Mi’ on a toy piano after his mother had been humming the tune.

By the age of seven, he won first prize in the All Japan Music of Blind Students organised by the Tokyo Helen Keller Association.

Nobuyuki Tsujii revisits host family in the US

(Listening tip: use a good set of headphones)

Humble yet cheerful, Nobu returned to the US after a year to pay homage to the family that hosted him during the competition in 2009.

“You are our special son” hostess Carol told him through an interpreter.

Debut at Carnegie Hall, New York on 10 November 2011

(Listening tip: use a good set of headphones)

Nobu enthralled the sell-out audience at Carnegie Hall with his debut program that included Liszt’s Un Sospiro, Beethoven’s ‘Tempest’ piano sonata and Mussorgsky’s famous ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’.

He played three encores one of which was his own composition ‘Still We Live’ which was dedicated to the victims of the Japanese tsunami that year.

His listeners were captivated by his sensitivity and musicianship but at the end of his performance, Nobu himself was moved to tears back stage by the thunderous applause from the audience.

Sobbing uncontrollably with his minder by his side, he said “I was not concerned about the outcome, I am so excited, so moved by the applause.”

“I am satisfied. I have nothing more to say” he added.

Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, BBC Proms 

(Listening tip: use a good set of headphones)

Since his triumph at the Cliburn Competition, Nobu has been performing in concerts and inspired thousands of young musicians all over the world. He has proven that success always come with hardwork and determination.

But more importantly, Nobu has proven that when one’s heart is filled with passion, it cannot see obstacles no matter how arduous these obstacles may be. This is especially so when one is blind.

So dear readers, are you daunted by obstacles at times and does this story about Nobuyuki Tsujii inspire you to tackle your fears and obstacles? 

The Cliburn
2525 Ridgmar Boulevard, Suite 307
Fort Worth, Texas 76116

Tel: +1 817 738 6536


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7 Responses to Nobuyuki Tsujii, piano

  1. M. L. Liu says:

    Hi, I am in the U.S. and have been a fan of Mr. Nobuyuki Tsujii for some time. He is truly an inspiration and what he accomplished in 2013 alone would put most of us to shame
    Thanks for a great article that obviously was a labor of love. Bravo!
    Happy New Year!

  2. What an amazing young man. It proves that with just a bit of encouragement, someone can take their talent and passion to the pinnacle of their field.

    Thanks heaps for sharing his story and Happy New Year!

  3. Andi R. says:

    would like permission to reprint on Japanese website, attributing to you.

    • Chopinand says:

      Dear Andi R.

      You can reprint with an attribute to our blog. Would appreciate if you could email us the web link once you have published it. Thanks.

  4. Raymund says:

    Happy New Year! May you have more success this year on your blog :)

  5. Dear ChopinandMysaucepan,

    I believe God puts people on earth to express the depths of emotion for our benefit — from musicians and artists and cinematographers and performers (and bloggers, I might add) — to delight us and to define our purpose. I’ve read some exceptional posts since the New Year, seen more than a few exquisite photographs, and cooked some elegant-tasting meals thanks to the online availability of stellar recipes — but music is what stirs my soul the most.

    Thank you for being an agent of inspiration — for sharing the incredible story of “Nobu” (and his obstacles), to his moving performance of Rachmaninoff’s 2nd concerto. (And his original composition.) I’m feeling so blessed (and teary eyed) right now, I simply must quote him: “I am satisfied. I have nothing more to say”… with the exception of quoting your intro to this post, which had “little to do with food or music and much to do with the strength and beauty of the human spirit.” Thank you so very much.

    • Chopinand says:

      Dear Kim,

      I think Nobu is a very special because of his talent despite his visual impairment.

      I have closed my eyes many times while listening to his playing and I found that his sound and tonality is just as impressive as many normal sighted pianists. His ability to touch the hearts of so many through his music is truly a gift from God.

Comments are closed.