Japanese Special Award
"My World"
Yoshiko Ina (14, female) (junior high school student)

I have an upright piano at home. Her name is Micchan. I secretly named her after my favorite grandmother.
When I'm playing Micchan, I become calm and relaxed. When I stroke the keys with my fingers, pouring in all my emotions, she gives out a sound that reflects my feelings, as if she knows what I'm thinking. At times like this, I feel she really understands me, and I keep playing her over and over again, as if I were talking with a close friend. Then I close the cover with a peaceful feeling.
I was first attracted to the piano in the spring of the year I turned three. I heard my friend playing a piano in the playroom of our nursery. That was when I first felt the charm of the piano. The piano was worn out and the children were just hitting the keyboard randomly, so my first impression of the piano was not very melodious.
This changed, though, when I heard one girl play. What she played was just a simple chordal practice, but I got lost in that sound and it got locked in my head. After she finished playing, I felt overwhelmed and asked her how it was that she could play the piano so beautifully. She answered matter-of-factly that it was because she'd had lessons.
That very day, I asked my mother to let me learn the piano. She looked for a class that would accept a blind child like me. We decided to go to a school run by a family acquaintance. Although I didn't like the teacher, I didn't care; I was just happy to be playing the piano. I practiced eagerly, and one by one I finished each training piece.
At first I enjoyed it a lot. However, as the training pieces became harder, I gradually found I couldn't keep up. The teacher's attitude towards me was getting to be a problem in the end. With all this on my mind, I started thinking that I didn't want to go to the classes any more. I even thought about quitting.
I couldn't talk about my feelings on days like these. Then one day, after coming home for the weekend from my week at the boarding home, my mother said to me in a gleeful tone, "Here's something nice. Do you know what it is?" She took my hand and laid it on something large and firm. This was my first meeting with Micchan.
I was surprised, and asked my mother about it. She told me that everyone in our family had chipped in to buy it for me as a special gift, since I'd continued learning the piano for a long time without giving up. There it was. No matter what, there was no way I could say I wanted to quit the piano now.
From that day onwards, I continued to go to the classes unwillingly. One day I practiced a track on Micchan. Despite being difficult, it was not a particularly beautiful track. Losing my enthusiasm to learn that track, I just fooled around with my fingers instead. That was when the idea occurred to me in a flash: "I'll make a track by myself. A more beautiful and complex track!"
It's surprising that I had such an idea, given that my technique wasn't the best and I couldn't read braille music scores properly. Nevertheless, that day I finished making my memorable first track, a 4-note rhythm in E minor, which I called "Snow." From that day, my passion for the piano was reawakened. I started composing lots of songs and found joy in sharing my feelings with Micchan.
My tracks are for solo piano and 90 percent of them are in a minor key. When I create tracks, I focus on my favorite scene in a book or on my feelings inside. One example is the scene in a Darren Shan story where the main character fights his enemy. Even after he gets injured, my favorite character keeps fighting until he finishes his mission. I totally respected his attitude.
When I was thinking about the character's way of life, music played inside my head. I gradually put the sounds together to make a tune. The name of the track is "Unknown World." When listening to the finished track, my feelings were overtaken by the sound as it reached my ears. The feeling in my heart and the feeling in the track melded together, and, as I swelled with joy, my chest felt tight.
Half a year ago, on referral from a guide helper who liked my track, I went to a home for elderly people to play the piano. After I played, an old lady came to me and said, "That was a beautiful song. It made me want to try playing the piano." I was delighted to hear that and my heart was overwhelmed with emotion. Even such a little song created from my feelings could make people happy.
I want to compose more tracks and have more people hear them. There might be people who become happy or gain hope by listening to my tracks. My dream is to meet as many such people as possible. To make this dream come true, I want to expand my world more with Micchan.

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