Visually Impaired Pianist Honors Leeds Legend

A 13-year-old piano prodigy, who is blind and has severe autism, is nurturing her incredible musical gift with the help of a dedicated teacher. (Image: The Amber Trust)

Music isn’t for the eyes; it’s for the ears, the heart, and the soul. Learn more about how a visually impaired 13-year-old performed a piece in honor of a legendary pianist.

A visually impaired pianist born in Yorkshire, Lucy Illingworth recently rose to fame as a pianist and has since been spreading her love for music through shows all around. Recently, she honored a Leeds legend by performing a sensational piece.

Lucy rose to fame as a star of The Piano, a Channel 4 program, by showing that despite being visually impaired, it was still possible to play the piano beautifully.

The visually impaired pianist had competed in the TV show, which had judges Lang Lang and Mika, and was presented by Claudia Winkleman. She became a crowd favorite in no time and has since performed at numerous halls.

Lucy recently received a standing ovation when she played at the finale in the Royal Festival Hall in London. In a recent performance, Lucy honored a Leeds legend, Dame Fanny Waterman.

Pianist Lucy with Daniel Bath, her piano teacher, at the Royal Festival Hall.
Lucy with Daniel Bath, her piano teacher, at the Royal Festival Hall. (Image: via Mark Bourdillon)

Who was Dame Fanny Waterman?

Dame Fanny Waterman was a Leeds piano teacher and is remembered as a Leeds International Piano Competition co-founder. This is one of the most renowned competitions worldwide.

The Leeds legend’s legacy doesn’t just include a competition that has lasted for years and involves her series of educational piano books co-authored with Marion Thorpe, the Countess of Harewood. So far, the books have sold over 2 million copies and have been used over generations to teach kids about the instrument.

In honor of Dame Fanny Waterman, Lucy played a piece, with a special blue plaque unveiled that lists the renowned piano teacher’s contribution. To make things even more unique, the same message appeared below the regular text, but in brail for Lucy and other visually impaired to read.

Lucy performed with her teacher Daniel Bath, who also contributed significantly to the magical moment and the growth of the visually impaired pianist.

How did Lucy learn to play the piano?

Daniel reportedly met Lucy when she was just 3 years old. This was through a charity that was designed to help children who were blind or partially sighted.

Since then, the piano teacher has been a massive part of her life and growth as a professional pianist. The charity that brought them together was called the Amber Trust, dedicated to providing more opportunities for children like Lucy.

Aside from the troubles of learning piano, which is also problematic, visually impaired individuals must look for a teacher capable of teaching them. This is because, unlike regular pianists, blind or visually impaired individuals have to read the notes in brail or memorize the piece, which can be more complicated.

Daniel and Lucy worked closely together, and now, Lucy’s talent has not just been heard, but has also inspired others as it is played through the great music halls.

Lucy performed at The Amber Trust Concert in 2022. (Image: via The Amber Trust)

The Leeds International Piano Competition

The Leeds International Piano Competition is an annual program combining events and projects for schools and communities. This includes the Royal Philharmonic Society Award-winning Leeds Piano Trail, among other competitions, and even free piano lessons.

The legacy of Dame Fanny Waterman was more than just a competition, as the competition paved a path for music, especially piano, to be appreciated and reach a wider audience. It also allowed those to access piano lessons for free or as an inspiration for beginner pianists to work toward the competition.

In summary

Lucy has proven that despite being visually impaired, it’s still possible to shine musically. And aside from just enjoying individual success, it was also important to honor those that paved the way for music.

Dame Fanny Waterman is a name known less than the Leeds competition. However, the competition built by this renowned piano teacher will inspire more generations in the future.

While there will rarely be musicians like Lucy, her success shows that people shouldn’t shut the door just because somebody is different, especially in music.

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