Nobu's host family

Update: It wasn't until on November 22 2013 that I discovered a charming video "Meet Nobuyuki Tsujii's host family" by Jen Friedberg , which is still viewable on dfw.com community site and is apparently one of their most popular videos. 
To view the video: click here  to view (NOT the photo below)

 Throughout the 2009 Cliburn Competition, Nobuyuki and his mother stayed at the Fort Worth, Texas home of the Davidsons, who appeared  vividly in the documentary "A Surprise in Texas", and clearly were pivotal to Nobu's triumph.  In 2010, Nobu revisited the family when he returned to Fort Forth to appear in a concert, as seen in this moving video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qaWuGrmZCLg
The photo to the left, taken from the video, shows Nobu playing on the piano impromptu for John and Carol Davidson while revisiting them in 2010.

Following is an article that appeared in a Texas newspaper after the preliminary round of the Competition:

Van Cliburn 2009: Piano is a passion for blind competitor

11:16 AM CDT on Tuesday, May 26, 2009
By MICHAEL GRANBERRY / The Dallas Morning News
mgranberry@dallasnews.com
http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/ent/stories/DN-blindpianist_0526gd.ART.State.Edition1.506f3ab.html

FORT WORTH – He has been here only a week, but from the moment he arrived, Nobuyuki Tsujii has had an impact on the neighborhood.

Each day, the ritual is the same: He eats breakfast with his host family, John and Carol Davidson, who live in a town home near downtown Fort Worth, and then begins to play: Chopin, Debussy, Liszt, Beethoven.

Molly, the Davidsons' tiny Cairn terrier, nestles under the Steinway for a closer listen. A mom walking an infant circles the door repeatedly. Rather than complain, other neighbors have asked the Davidsons to please keep the front door open.

We've been joking about charging them," Carol Davidson says. "I cry a lot when I hear him play. And when I'm not crying, I feel goose bumps."

Tsujii, 20, is one of 29 competitors in the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, now taking place at Bass Performance Hall. This is his second international competition and fourth overall. But he is believed to be the first contestant in the history of the Cliburn who can't see.

He performed Saturday night in the preliminary round, playing Chopin, Debussy and Liszt and impressing even Van Cliburn himself. "He was absolutely miraculous," Cliburn told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram . "His performance had the power of a healing service. It was truly divine."

Tsujii will learn tonight whether he advances to the semifinals.

Blind since birth, Tsujii first showed interest in piano at 2, when he startled his mom by playing a flawless "Jingle Bells" after hearing it on the radio. "I felt so astonished, so surprised," his mother, Itsuko Tsujii said through interpreter Kay Nakamoto.

He began studying piano at 4 and now majors in piano performance at a Tokyo university. He can read Braille but doesn't use it for piano. He plays only by ear. He listens to a live or recorded version of what he wishes to play and memorizes the notes. He then spends hours, even days, matching the score to his flying fingertips.

The Davidsons, who volunteered to be a host family, say their dog has so fallen in love with Tsujii's playing that their vet has expressed concern.

"He told us that, when Nobu leaves, we must play a recording of his music," Carol Davidson says. "Otherwise, Molly will get depressed. She wakes up in the morning, waiting for Nobu."

Nobu's father, Takashi, who did not make the trip, is a gynecologist. His mother, a former anchor for a Tokyo TV station, escorted her son to the stage on Saturday and is by his side at every competition. When they arrived at the Davidsons', she walked him around the house, helping him navigate and memorize its interior.

Piano, Tsujii says, is his passion, his life.

"I just love to play," he says through his interpreter. "All the time ... always."

He most loves Debussy, Chopin and Beethoven but will occasionally play jazz. He likes to swim and, his mother says, is a fearless skier, a technique he mastered by hanging onto a teacher as he cruises down the slopes.

He has competed continuously since fifth grade and at 17 won a special award at a competition in Poland.

"I want continuously to play the piano," he says. "It is my life. I wish to become a world-famous pianist who will soar to the sky all over the world."

For the Davidsons, serving as a host family has opened the door to the sweetest sound.

"Nobu and his mom are just wonderful people," John Davidson says. "It's been such an uplifting experience, and to add to that his wonderful gift. The way he practices is just awe-inspiring."

Although the Davidsons own their own baby grand piano, the Cliburn insists on Steinways. So, a Steinway grand piano was brought to the house. (Carol's piano is kept in storage until the competition ends.)

The first full day Nobu was in Fort Worth, he played for eight hours, lashing the keys until almost midnight, even after his hosts had gone to bed.

"We lay there listening to this extraordinarily beautiful music – and then it stopped," Carol Davidson says. "For a moment, I was worried. And then I heard Nobu walk by himself upstairs, with no problem. The only thing I missed was the music. That I could have listened to all night long."

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