I recently enjoyed the pleasure of a private recital by Gohei Nishikawa hosted by the Bachmann-Strauss Dystonia & Parkinson Foundation. I didn’t know what to expect from a pianist who shares my condition. Certainly not a transcendent performance by a charming man with a boyish grin and endearing humor whose words waxed as eloquently as his notes.
A latecomer to piano at age 15, Gohei dove into an arduous relationship demanding personal sacrifice to fast track a burgeoning career. He embarked on a journey that brought him from Japan to New York City and landed him debuts at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, only to encounter a mysterious disorder when he had just begun to fulfill his promise. Hands trained to intricately caress the keyboard suddenly froze when he sat down to play.
Gohei battles what is termed Musician’s Dystonia, an impertinent guest that acts out with a curl of the fingers when he exercises his craft and tends to behave when his hands aren’t engaged. Though his dream was brutally sidetracked, Gohei fought back to reclaim his miracle, presently an even harder-working right hand collaborating with two fingers on the left. Gohei determined to celebrate his passion through performance and teaching, devoting himself to refining the next generation of talent.
His artistry is light years away from a disorder that incapacitates and restricts. Gohei undulates his wings and carries his audience to another realm. His fingers brush whispers of encouragement, strains of hopefulness and declarations of strength. While his technical rigor is remarkable, what truly elevates his music is an emotional splendor that fits an entire universe into the magical vibrations emanating from the keyboard.
One of the cruelties of Dystonia and so many other disorders is their strike at the heart of life’s passions: the dancer losing the grace of her limbs, the athlete facing permanent dysfunction, the mother unable to lift her child, the musician whose hands turn rebellious. Triumph lies in adapting our dreams to fit our realities and stretching our realities to accommodate new dreams.
I’m blessed with a succession of stories by people who navigate a life of physical struggle from a place of hope. Listening to Gohei’s awe-inspiring gift, I envisioned his journey and saw mine more clearly. His exultant return to piano is a taste of the celebration of optimism I’ve encountered. My new friends have touched my soul with their generous spirit and heartfelt candor.
Gohei is accepting students in Manhattan and Greenwich, CT. He can be contacted on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gohei.nishikawa