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TCU 360

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Student’s passion for music overcomes disability


Japanese native Nozomi Iwai, motivated by her passion for music, decided to move to Texas to attend TCU three years ago.

Iwai was accepted to the university’s music program after auditioning for the Artist Diploma.

Tamás Ungár, Iwai’s professor, said the decision to admit Iwai to the university’s competitive piano program was not difficult to make.

There is one thing that sets Iwai apart from most musicians though.

She is blind.

The 25-year-old musician said her passion for music started at the age of four when she took her first piano lesson. 

After being born visually impaired, Iwai said her parents enrolled her in various activities, including dance and sports, in hopes she would lead a fulfilling life. 

It would be her experience with music that would give her most contentment.

“I love music,” Iwai said. “When I play I feel like music gives me some kind of energy. I feel my life is with music forever.”

Ungár said he felt Iwai’s disability strengthened rather than hindered her performance.

“She has a very unique sound which comes from her inner ear,” he said. “I suppose the Almighty took one thing away from her and gave extra that make up for it. I always tell Nozomi that her best weapon is her own sound.”

During her three years pursuing the Artist Diploma, Ungár said Iwai was always held to the same expectations and standards other students adhere to at the music school.

“It’s not saying ‘Well, just because you are blind you can’t do it.’ I demand [the same from her],” Ungár said. 

Ungár said he has learned to adjust his teaching techniques to accommodate Iwai’s disability but said Iwai was a quick learner.

“We joke sometimes, I demonstrate and I say ‘Did you see what I’ve done?’ and she laughs out loud and I laugh too and at first I felt very badly,” he said. “But usually in order to demonstrate how I do things, she comes over to my piano and puts her hands on my hands and she can feel what I do. And immediately she knows. It’s uncanny how she can understand the certain touch that I do.”

Iwai said she loves performing. 

“When I am on stage I feel like the audience is mine,” she said. “I feel we make music together not only myself and when I feel that I am very happy.” 

Apart from her music, Iwai said she spends her time meeting friends, cooking in her apartment, Skyping with her family and browsing Facebook.

She said she is able to engage in these activities because all the appliances in her apartment have a capabilities  of speaking out instructions and messages to her.

Edith Widayani, Iwai’s friend and fellow musician, said she was amazed by Nozomi’s independence and positive outlook on life.

“She is such a strong person. I’m imagining myself in her position – it would be really hard for me to get by. But she is always very positive, she is always very happy”, Widayani said. “Its really bringing a new perspective in life I think, having her as a friend.” 

Widayani said she enjoys spending time with Iwai at her apartment cooking and talking about their mutual love for music and Korean soap operas. 

Iwai finds nothing dramatic about her being blind, Widayani said. 

“She doesn’t look at it as if it’s is a big part of her life,” Widayani said. “It’s just going along and just living her life.”

Ungár agreed.

“She is a very happy person, she is blessed with this inner smile. I look at her and I feel humble,” he said.

Iwai said she will complete her Artist Diploma this spring and said her only hope for the future is to be able to continue pursuing her passion for music.

“It’s my life,” she said.

Iwai left to Japan Tuesday for her debut recital on May 24 at Kioi Hall in Tokyo.

Ungár said Iwai held a kind of celebrity status in Japan.

“She has appeared on equivalency of CNN in Korea and Japan so she has certain fame and she represents TCU well,” Ungár said. “She is playing at the most important hall in Tokyo. I gather its nearly sold out,” Ungár said.

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