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The blind boy on Hawaii with a gift for the piano

Kuha’o Case is a boy of 15 who discovered, three years ago, that he has perfect pitch and can play anything by ear. But he has no instrument at home and has to rely on the kindness of strangers. So he has launched a Kickstart campaign and is quarter of the way to reaching his $30,000 goal of a concert grand and a debut CD. Check the video, and help if you can here.

Kuha’o has a gift. Your gift can bring it to fulfilment.

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  1. richard carlisle says:

    Could someone more knowledgable answer a piano question: can someone playing by ear pick up on subtleties like diminished chords?

    Thanks in advance.


    • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

      Yes. It’s like hearing a complicated word. You can repeat it but you might not be able to spell it or know what it means. If you asked him to play a diminished chord, he might not know what that means (a chord built on minor thirds) but if you played one for him he would be able to play it for you exactly as you played it. He seems very intelligent, knows Braille (which was originally invented by Louis Braille for music, I believe!) and speaks well. Scores of most major works are also available in Braille. One can only hope that they forget about the CD for a while, get him a piano and a sympathetic teacher.

      • richard carlisle says:

        Thanks Robert,

        The occasional use by Chopin in his etudes and concertos, how they touch something in my heart… I had the impression a well-known pianist who played by ear just didn’t bother with them at all, turning me off thoroughly.

    • Alexander says:

      I would think that the answer is yes, provided that person had an opportunity to hear how such chords might be used. A truly great musical mind is capable of just about anything.

  2. There is a fascinating chapter in Oliver Sacks book “Musicophilia” which describes the recurrent phenomenon of blindness coupling with extra-ordinary musical talent. He puts it down the brain being able to reconfigure itself in an attempt to compensate for the loss of one sense – and as a result creates astonishing power in another.

    A bit dumb to have a campaign to buy a concert grand. Just an ordinary piano would do. But at 30k (including the ill advised CD) maybe that’s what he’ll get anyway.

    • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

      Visit the INJA (l’Institut National des Jeunes Aveugles) in Paris where Louis Braille taught. Most countries have eliminated such schools and have mainstreamed the blind students. It’s a fascinating world with its own sensibilities, advantages, and problems. I once saw a young blind couple (20 yo ?) on the Paris Metro holding hands, they were stunningly gorgeous (visually) and they got off the train at Duroc (INJA). Somehow they knew they loved each other and good looks didn’t seem to matter. Some of the greatest piano tuners have been blind. Here is the magnificient concert hall of the school:

  3. What a great story!

  4. Wanderer says:

    He “needs” a concert grand AND a debut CD? I’d say if he has talent, he can prove it on a decent upright.

    • Agreed, Wanderer. There is an overwhelming sense of “entitlement” nowadays and this kid needs to learn that exploiting a disability doesn’t mean that he can start at the top. I guess once he reaches his “goal” we can expect to see a new campaign to fund his college education.
      My daughter attends a top-tier conservatory that runs about 55K/year; she works 4 jobs and I do without to make sure that she gets the training she needs. There is a blind string player in her class and her family also makes sacrifices for her education. Most of daughter’s friends are receiving financial aid which requires them to participate in a work-study program and take out various loans to make ends meet.
      Many of the students in the school create performance opportunities and raise money not for themselves, but for charitable causes that they support through their chapter of the international music fraternity.I have friends with kids at other conservatories who do likewise to bring music to places and people who might otherwise never experience live performances. None of them would have ever considered soliciting funds for their own use.

    • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

      There are people in a position to help in Hawaii who have also noticed these delusions of grandeur which are probably coming from the chap who produced the rather slick promo video. A decent piano (like the one he is playing in the video) will do and the CD can wait, agreed completely.

      • richard carlisle says:

        Sadly the power of youtube that has done and will continue to do some heart-touching good involves the inclusion of money — the ingredient that can and will always pollute the integrity of everything… if youtube could ban the mention of money the results would still persist and be just as heart-touching.

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