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Music Helps Aid Pianist with Tourette Syndrome

The city of Saga in Kyushu, Japan, is home to the renowned classical pianist known as Yusuke Osada, who also goes by the stage name YUSK. Osada is not your average musician; he is an accomplished performer who has managed to use his talent in more ways than one.

Diagnosed with Tourette syndrome (TS) at an early age, Osada learned how to use his musical virtuosity to his advantage; as an effective way to help combat his condition.

The syndrome is a neurological disorder that can be characterized by repetitive, stereotyped, involuntary movements, as well as vocalizations called tics.

Although TS can become a chronic condition with symptoms that may last a lifetime, most people experience their worst tic symptoms during their early teen years, with improvement occurring in their late teens and continuing into adulthood.

As a child, Osada frequently relocated due to the nature of his father’s job as an investment banker. His passport was peppered with stamps from London, to Switzerland, back to Japan, to the UK again, before he finally settled in Hanover, Germany.

It was during his formative teenage years at Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester, England, that Osada began to cultivate his passion, while also learning how to positively channel his symptoms through the music.

“I think music is a very big thing when it comes to suppressing [my] Tourette’s”, Osada stated, as he described the pivotal role music has played in helping him cope with his symptoms.

While explaining in greater detail why he believes TS does not directly affect him when he plays, Osada added that “it definitely comes down to the concentration level when you’re playing.” He further stated that “it’s not really because you’re moving so much, it’s because you’re into what you are doing”.

Osada got to try his hand at conducting during a charity concert that took place during March of 2016, on the fifth anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. He was quite fortunate, as he did not experience any of his usual tics.

“It’s funny, because I never thought about it, but even when I’m conducting it doesn’t come about. You have everyone’s eyes on you and you need to be on form all the time,” he noted.

As TS in not a widely discussed subject in Japan, there exists only one non-profit organization, The Tourette Syndrome Association of Japan, for which Osada spoke on behalf of during a few speeches back in 2015.

While comparing the way Japan views TS to the rest of the world, he said that “I think it’s a very difficult environment for people who have Tourette’s to be in Japan because they don’t even know what it is”.

Additionally, Osada feels as though he received significant support in the UK in the form of friends and family, rather than an organization.

“I was in a very good environment being in a boarding school, especially where you don’t have to constantly meet new people and have to sort of explain yourself to everyone,” he stated.

Throughout his trials with the syndrome, Osada continues to remain optimistic about one thing: it’s all about the music. “I always tell people that you have to find something that you’re really passionate about, and I think [for me] it’s music,” he said.


This piece was based on an article by Maxine Cheyney, published on JapanToday.com, which can be seen here.


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Megan Baksh received her Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science at Nova Southeastern University in May of 2016, and is currently pursuing an education in the field of psychology.