Blind pianist to perform recital at GVSU

GVL / Courtesy - GVNow

GVL / Courtesy – GVNow

Arie Nienhuis

To close out the first month of the semester at Grand Valley State University, pianist Yoo Jin Noh will perform a guest piano recital in the Sherman Van Solkema Recital Hall of the Haas Center for Performing Arts on Wednesday, Jan. 31, at 7:30 pm.

Noh, who has been blind since birth, has been working past her disability and playing piano since the age of 14. Although off to a later start than most pianists, Noh has earned a wide array of awards for her talent, including top prizes from the Southwestern Music Festival and the Musical Arts Club Competition, as well as numerous other grand prizes from a variety of institutions. 

Sookkyung Cho, assistant professor of piano at GVSU, sees Noh as an incredibly impressive performer, especially with the restrictions her disability causes her.

“I think it’s awesome,” Cho said. “I haven’t heard her play live yet—I’ve only seen the YouTube videos—but I think it’s amazing that she can play such difficult repertoire. Some of it is very advanced.” 

According to GVSU’s event page on Noh, she has appeared in the Quincy Symphony Orchestra in Illinois and the Boston Halfner Symphony, and performed a solo recital at Azusa Pacific University. In 2015, Noh also performed for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. 

A number of Noh’s performances can be viewed on the internet, but Cho believes that seeing a performance in person is significantly more immersive and rewarding.

“I think it’s a special experience,” Cho said. “Microphones and recording devices can pick up subtle nuances in performances, but they still don’t capture the entire atmosphere. It’s about working with the space and communicating with the audience.”

Cho also thinks that live performances have a much higher potential for education as opposed to YouTube videos or audio recordings.

“It just becomes a lot more personal,” Cho said. “It’s on a person-to-person level rather than a person-to-machine level. Also, (in) a lot of recordings, both audio and video, artists add a lot of edits. When you go to a live concert, you’re sitting there for an entire hour, and it’s like going on a journey.”

Cho said Noh’s ability to perform despite her blindness is something that other disabled individuals could gain inspiration from. 

“I think that it would be a very personal experience (for students with disabilities),” Cho said. “I’ve been hearing a lot from students already about coming to the recital because they think it would be special, and I think everyone will take away something that is very personal.”

Even for students studying outside of the realm of music, Cho believes that attending live performances is a great way to get to know a musician more personally.

“What teaches me a lot when I go to lives is the commitment involved in a show,” Cho said. “I think that can be applied to any field of study. There is that courage to show yourself at such an intimate level.”

In case of inclement weather, another performance date is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 6, at 7:30 p.m. in the Sherman Van Solkema Recital Hall in the Haas Center for Performing Arts.