April 21, 2014

Blind Teen Musical Prodigy Kuha'o Case Sees No Limits

Kuha'o Case can play songs after hearing them just once or twice.  If you’ve studied piano, you know that for most people, it’s a lot harder than that.  For Kuha’o, who is blind, it’s a gift.  He discovered this gift when he was 12 years old in Middle school.  In his music class they brought out keyboards.  Kuha’o was able to play songs almost immediately.  He said, "The first time, my fingers touched the keyboard, I felt overjoyed. It completely changed my world and my entire life.”

Soon after this, Kuha’o joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  He had begun spending weekends with his grandparents and attending church with them.  One Sunday after church, he sat down at a piano and played the songs he heard in Sacrament meetings.  His grandparents were stunned!  Since he didn’t own a piano, he started practicing piano at the church building while his grandpa cleaned it on Saturday.  After a while, he wanted to learn to play the organ.  Using his grandpa’s cleaning time to practice, Kuha’o taught himself how to play the organ.  To help him learn, Kuha’o got up at 5 am on Sunday mornings to listen to the broadcast of ‘Music and the Spoken Word’ each Sunday.  Surely he understood that the more he heard organ playing, the better he could reproduce it.  

Kuha’o’s grandparents bought a piano for him to practice on over the weekends.  Now he uses his time at the building to practice on the organ.  Every other Sunday Kuha’o plays for his ward’s Sacrament meetings, as well as singing in the ward choir and playing the piano as needed.  Kuha’o said, “I do like to practice on the organ while others are doing their jobs, because we need music—music will help them get the focus to try to do the responsibility the right way,” Kuha’o said. “I get on the organ and play. Every Saturday I do organ practice, and every Sunday I prepare for sacrament. ... That is what [music] is for—you get to bring people closer to the Lord, to come unto Him.”

A couple of years ago, Kuha’o met a man named Andy Thunell, probably at church in Hawaii.  Andy was amazed at Kuha’o’s abilities and wanted to help him.  Andy recorded Kuha’o playing the piano and posted it on Utube.  Using Utube and a fundraising website, Andy helped Kuha’o raise the money to buy himself a piano.  They burned a CD to sell and raised money for Kuha’o to come to Utah to promote it.  Kuha’o now flies to Utah each summer to take intensive organ lessons from one of the Tabernacle organists. 

What makes playing the keyboard easier for Kuha’o is that he has perfect pitch.  (That means if you hum a note or press a piano key, he can tell you what note it is.  This ability makes it possible to dissect chords and reconstruct them to replicate a song.)  

The other thing that helps Kuha’o play music so easily is that he is blind.  That sounds kind of odd—that his disability makes playing the piano easier.  But Kuha’o insists that being blind enabled him to not see barriers.  Since he doesn’t rely on sight, he doesn’t need to see something done before he’ll attempt it.  

He explained, “In my life, I see no limits. You might want to laugh at that statement, because, in reality, I see nothing at all. So, of course, I see no limits. But let me further explain. I am not trying to say that one day, I decided to raise above the challenges that had been set for me. No. What I am saying is that, because I am not able to visually see the world around me, I do not understand boundaries and limitations in the same way as the rest of you, through sight, do. It seems to me, that, in very significant ways, having your sight, might be more limiting than being blind.”

Isn’t that a wonderful way to ‘see’ the world?  With that attitude, he taught himself to play the piano and the organ without owning a piano or taking any lessons.  Further, he set personal goals to play the Tabernacle organ, drive a car, serve as a Mormon Missionary and become a movie producer.  Of those, he has played the Tabernacle organ and driven a car on his grandpa’s property.  I think he’ll be a great missionary.  Will he become a movie producer?  It would be the first time a blind person had done so.  But does that make it impossible?

Kuha’o doesn’t think so.  He said, “Heavenly Father gave me this gift first because He loves me and He wants to bless me more.  And He would someday want me to be like Him.  We can follow and accomplish our dreams in life.  Anything is possible.”

One observer noted, “While it would be so easy for someone in his situation to wallow in self-pity, Kuha'o never succumbs to pessimism. Rather, his positive attitude is constant. He knows that being blind will never keep him from realizing his dreams. Like his music, being blind is a necessary part of him. His message is that no matter how difficult our circumstances, and no matter how hard things might be, we are all capable of greatness. As he has demonstrated in his own life, if we believe in ourselves, anything is possible.”

Photo courtesy of Utube

Anderson, Mike.  "Blind Piano Prodigy Kuha'o Case Tours Utah."  KSL.com.  July 16, 2012.

Besliu, Raluca.  "Kaha'o Case:  the blind piano prodigy who chooses to see no limits."  Taking on the Giant.  Web. December 26, 2013.

Dahm, Lisa Marie.  "Kuha'o Case."  North Hawaii News.  Web.  August 23, 2013.

Holman, Marianne.  "Blind Ward Organist Uses Musical Abilities to Inspire Others."  Church News.  Web.  23 July 2012.

LDS.org.  "Extraordinary Gift."  video.

Spanish Fork.org.  "9th Annual Harvest Moon Hurrah."  Announcement.  Web.

Thunell, Andy.  "Kuha'o Case, Blind Piano Prodigy to Produce his First CD."  Kickstarter.com.  Web.  June 21, 2012.

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