Playing the piano is an amazing experience. But, learning how to play requires dedication, lots of practice, and patience. However, once you become a good player, you’ll enjoy every moment of it.
Playing the piano when you’re visually-impaired seems even impossible. Well, it’s not. You’ve probably heard stories of some of the best blind piano players of all time.
If you haven’t, then today is your lucky day because that’s what we are going to talk about here.
As the saying goes, “Disability is not inability.” These seven piano players are the exact definition of that saying. Having beaten the odds of the fact that they are/were blind and went on to become some of the most famous blind piano players of all time.
However, they are not the only ones, the list is huge. But today we’ll only focus on these 7 blind piano players who managed to inspire millions of people around the world.
Who is the best piano player ever?
The best piano player ever is Vladimir Horowitz, born in 1903 and died in 1989. However, there is a solid case to be made for Vladimir Horowitz to be crowned the greatest pianist of all time.
1. Stevie Wonder
What famous musician was blind? That’s right; it’s Stevie Wonder. He is one of the most famous blind piano players and musicians of all time. Born in 1950, Stevie Wonder became blind shortly after his birth.
He lost his vision as an infant due to developing retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). But this never kept him away from pursuing his dream.
Stevie Wonder rose to fame at a very young age of just 11 years. Auditioning for Motown shortly after he wrote his successful composition in 1961.
Some of the hits that made him famous include:
- “I was made to love her,”
- “My Cherie Amour,” and
- “Boogie on reggae.”
Some of his songs were able to reach the top of the R&B charts.
He retained his world status well back in the ’80s, after performing two of his most legendary hits for the first time. They included “I just called to say I love you” and the duet “Ebony and Ivory” alongside Paul McCartney.
Stevie Wonder has recorded 30 U.S. top hits, he has won 25 Grammy Awards. And his music has sold more than 100 million records globally.
Stevie Wonder is also famous for redefining Pop music entirely through his music albums back in the 1970s. His 1970s albums were also the most influential during the time.
2. Ray Charles
Ray Charles Robinson is one of the best blind piano players of all time. He was born in 1930 and raised in Albany, Georgia, the U.S. He died on June 10th, 2004, but he left a legacy to be remembered for years to come.
Charles was an excellent blind piano player black man that inspired many people around the world.
The pianist became blind at the age of 7. But this disability did not deter him during his studies at the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind in St. Augustine, where he made his first steps in studying music
He became famous for bridging genres like rhythm & blues, gospel, and blues in his music. Charles was also an influential contributor to the integration of country and pop music back in the 1960s.
He was one of the most acclaimed and well-known personalities who contributed to transforming the American soul music genre in the 1950s and ‘60s. Another fascinating fact about Charles is that he had one of the longest careers of any blind piano player.
What’s more, he got himself nicknamed “Genius” due to his great talent, outstanding music, and songwriting skills.
Despite the deterioration of his popularity in the mid-1980s, his career ran for nearly six decades, from 1954 to his death in 2004. The Rolling Stone Magazine even went on to place him at number 10 on their list of 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
3. George Shearing
George Shearing also has a story full of triumph against all odds. Born in London on August 13th, 1919, George Shearing went on to become a famous British jazz musician and composer of over 300 titles.
Even though he was born blind, this did not hinder George from becoming one of the top blind piano players.
His talent shone early in life. Luckily, his parents helped him start his musical career at just a young age of 3 when he began his first piano lessons.
His career began with him working at a local pub, and later on, he went on to join an all-blind band. Most of his work was influenced by the records of Teddy Wilson and Fats Waller.
George Shearing rose to fame when he made his first radio broadcast in 1937 on the BBC radio station. He became truly famous in the United States, where his swing, modern classical music, sophisticated style, and mixing bop led him to greater popularity alongside Buddy DeFranco and Oscar Pettiford Trio.
ALSO READ: 7 Best Ways to Maintain Your Digital Piano
4. Nobuyuki Tsujii
Tsujii is a Japanese blind piano player born on September 13th, 1988. He first picked up the piano when he heard his mother hum a tune when he was 4 years old.
By the time Tsujii was 10 years old, he was already performing professionally with the Century Orchestra Osaka.
He was born blind due to Microphthalmia, but his top-notch musical talent has managed to propel him to become one of the world’s renowned artists.
Nobuyuki performs extensively with a large number of orchestras and conductors, which has enabled him to receive critical acclaims and notices for his unique technique for learning and playing music with an orchestra without being able to see.
In 2009, Tsujii competed in the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, where he tied with another contestant for the gold medal. He has received the Beverly Taylor Smith Award for the best performance of new work.
Tsujii has composed many original scores and also performed all over the world. He wrote his first composition at the age of 12 titled the Street Corner of Vienna. Tsujii has also composed several award-winning movies and documentary soundtracks.
5. Joaquin Rodrigo
Born on November 22nd in 1901, Joaquin Rodrigo became blind at the age of 3 due to complications from Diptheria. At the age of 8, Joaquin began to study solfege, violin, and piano, and at the age of 16, he went on to learn harmony and composition.
Although he was well-known for his guitar music, Joaquin never really mastered the instrument himself.
Joaquin once confessed that he felt his blindness was the one which predisposed him to be drawn to music. Being a classical piano player, Rodrigo is one of the few blind musicians that found his calling to music in a school setting.
By the time Joaquin was 20 years old, he was popularly known as an accomplished violinist. At the age of 23, he wrote his first piano composition.
Joaquin went on to receive many awards and prizes for his great work in music. He died in 1999 but is recognized as one of the best blind piano players of all time.
6. Ronnie Milsap
Milsap is an American country music performer born on January 16th, 1943. He is both a singer and pianist and was one of the most popular country music performers back in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Ronnie became almost completely blind due to a congenital disorder from birth.
He was abandoned by his mother as an infant and was raised in poverty by his grandparents in the smoky mountains of Robbinsville, North Carolina. At the age of five, he was sent to the Governor Morehead School for the Blind in Raleigh.
Milsap developed a passion for music during his childhood, the specific genres being country music, rhythm, and blues, as well as gospel music.
His instructors noticed his musical talents at the age of 7, which later on saw him begin to study classical music formally at the school, where he eventually mastered the piano.
Some of his industry awards and honors include Top Male Vocalist in 1982, Billboard song of the year in 1985 for the song “Lost in the fifties tonight,” Instrumentalist of the year in 1988, and the Pioneer Award in 2002.
Milsap has also received 6 Grammy Awards throughout his career, among other many miscellaneous achievements.
7. Marcus Roberts
Roberts is a famous blind piano player, and is among the best jazz artists of all time. Born in Jacksonville, Florida, the U.S., on August 7th, 1963, he became blind at the age of 5 years due to cataracts and glaucoma.
He attended the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind in St. Augustine, Florida, where he began teaching himself how to play the piano at an early age.
His first lesson was at age 12, and then he went on to study the instrument with pianist Leonidas Lipovetsky while attending the Florida State University.
Roberts replaced the pianist Kenny Kirkland in the Wynton Marsalis’s band in the ’80s, which saw him kick-start his music career as a blind piano player.
His music is deeply rooted in the traditional jazz of the past. His mother was a famous gospel singer, and she significantly contributed to his musical career at an early age. Roberts is an accomplished pianist, and he also plays several other instruments as well.
Was Beethoven Deaf or Blind?
Beethoven was deaf and unable to converse. He first noticed difficulties with his hearing decades earlier around 1798, when he was around 28 years. By the time he was 44 or 45 years, he was total deaf and not able to talk.
The only way he could communicate was to pass written notes to people such as his friends, family, or colleagues. Beethoven pass on at the age of 56 in 1827.
The list of some of the best blind piano players of all time is vast and difficult to summarize in one blog post. The above blind piano players are just some of the best, most popular ones out there.
They are exceptional pianists that have managed to inspire and move the world through their talent and resilience in what they do.