BROAD STAGE — There was plenty of optimistic predictions and critical acclaim for Fuzjko Hemming in her early years as a concert pianist, even after losing hearing in her right ear from an inflammation at the age of 16.
Despite fighting all odds after tragedy once again struck a few years later, this time in her left ear, leaving the musician deaf until the age of 21 when she regained 40 percent of her hearing, those lofty expectations for the once hailed child prodigy would come true.
The world renowned pianist, whose first album, “La Campanella,” sold over two million copies, will perform at The Broad Stage on Friday and Sunday, playing her favorite pieces by Franz Liszt, Frédéric Chopin, Ludwig van Beeethoven, Claude Debussy and J.S. Bach.
“I always perform for the audience’s enjoyment,” Hemming said. “Nothing more.”
The internationally famous pianist choosing to perform at The Broad Stage demonstrates that the less than year old facility is considered world class, Linda Sullivan, the director of facilities programming for Santa Monica College, said, noting that Lincoln Center in New York City is Hemming’s next stop.
“We’re playing with the big boys,” Sullivan said.
Craig Melone, a publicist who works with Los Angeles-based Domo Music Group, which recently signed Hemming, said the label’s president, Eiichi Naito, was impressed with The Broad Stage after another of his artists performed at the venue several weeks ago.
“The acoustics were perfect,” Melone said. “They liked the location and they liked that it was on the Westside.”
The concert will be the first in Santa Monica for Hemming, who said that she is unfamiliar with the city but remembers hearing about it as a young child in Vienna from Stanford University students.
“I am hoping that the audience will enjoy my performance as much as they did the last times that I was in the U.S. a couple of years ago,” she said.
Born in Berlin, Hemming moved to Tokyo with her family as a young child, learning to play the piano on a broken instrument and taking lessons from a Russian-born German pianist who was a family friend. She was told by her instructor that she would one day be an international success.
She made her concert debut at the age of 17, winning competitions including the NHK Mainichi Music Contest and Bunka Radio Broadcasting Company Music Prize, later working with the Japanese Philharmonic Orchestra and studying music at Tokyo National University of Fine Arts.
Hemming moved to Vienna after completing her studies, working with the likes of Shura Cherkassky, a famous Ukranian pianist, and conductors Bruno Maderna and Leonard Bernstein.
After losing hearing in her left ear, Hemming moved to Sweden where she taught music and worked as a janitor in a psychiatric hospital where she discovered an upright piano, performing impromptu concerts for nurses and patients.
When she regained about 40 percent hearing in her left ear, the pianist resumed where she left off, recording a debut album, which went onto receive numerous awards, and performing in venues all over the world.
Hemming described the fear that kept her from seeking medical attention when she became sick at 16, instead spending the money her mother had given to see a doctor to watch American movies.
But she has found peace in her condition.
“I accept whatever happens to me in life,” she said. “I do not like looking back at the past, instead, I think of what positive things lie ahead for me in the future.”