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Virtuoso for the Ages

Blind violinist plays for Great Falls students.

Through a program sponsored by the Japanese Embassy for local Japanese immersion schools, children and faculy at Great Falls Elementary School were treated to a performance by visually impaired violin virtuoso Narimichi Kawabata. He was accompanied on piano by Daniel-Ben Pienaar on April 6.

Blind since age eight, Japanese native Kawabata has studied violin with his ears since he was 10 years old. He's currently based in the UK as an international soloist, while taking part in charity concerts in and out of Japan.

After graduating first on the the list at the Royal Academy of Music in London he conferred Special Artist Status, making him the second person in the academy's 200 year history to hold the honor.

Great Falls Elementary School, one of three Japanese immersion schools in the county, recently adopted Kake Institute-Hiroshimo as their sister school. Together the schools filter programs to each other and plan exchange programs.

Japanese exchange teacher, Minoru Noma said the beauty of the emersion program is that class is taught half day in English and then in Japanese.

"The children have to listen carefully becase they don't understand this language fully. It teaches them to pay attention to the teacher," Noma said.

Lead teacher Mamiya Worland agreed that the program is fulfilling for the students.

"We will offer a trip to Japan at the end of the year," Worland said.