He may be only 15, but Yuto Miyazawa has no problem getting along with people several times his age, even when they're some of biggest names in rock history. In 2009, he toured eight cities with Ozzy Osbourne for Ozzfest. Twice he shared the stage with the late Les Paul, the man who pioneered the sound of the rock guitar; Yuto was eight years old, and Paul 92.
Speaking with Young Post by phone through a translator, the guitar prodigy comes across as the average teenager. His manager Steve Bernstein can attest to that: once, despite being in a rush to get to a TV interview in New York, Yuto begged to be allowed to stop and play on the monkey bars.
On stage, however, he's a pro. His fingers flit effortlessly across the neck of a guitar that looks too big for him, churning out complicated licks and trills at breakneck speed. Looking like a cute manga character come to life, the Japanese teen wows the crowds: he's played more than 500 concerts. In 2008 he was named by Guinness World Records as the youngest professional guitar player.
"The only time he gets upset is when people treat him like a kid. He's respectful, but he knows his music," says Bernstein. Once, a drummer failed to follow Yuto's lead during a show, stopping earlier than Yuto wanted him to. Yuto was furious. "He shot the drummer a look that could kill," recalls Bernstein.
Yuto wasn't even two years old when he found his life's passion. He saw his father playing the guitar and thought it was the coolest thing ever. When he was two, his grandfather made him a toy guitar out of a cardboard box. He began lessons when he was three, and was playing in a child band by the time he was five.
Bernstein discovered him seven years ago when he saw him playing in a rock club. He put a video clip of Yuto playing the guitar onto YouTube, which gained more than a million views in a matter of days. Three days later, Bernstein received a call from American television host Ellen DeGeneres, who flew Yuto over to perform Osbourne's Crazy Train on her show
After the performance, Yuto had a free day to spend in America. A normal eight-year-old might want to go to Disney World, but Yuto asked to visit the grave of his idol, Randy Rhoads, who used to play with Osbourne.
Rhoads' approach to the guitar strongly influenced Yuto's own. It's crucial to practise, but it's more important to play regularly than for many hours at a time. Yuto practises for only an hour each day on average, spending his free time listening to classical music and reading up on Japanese history.
Right now, Yuto needs to work on improving his English. Several years ago he impressed judges at America's Got Talent but couldn't compete because he didn't understand English. He's in a band with other teen musicians, The Robotix, but faces language barriers when communicating with the others, who all live in America.
When asked what his motto is, he says "To practise is very important". If it works as well for him with English as it did with the guitar, he'll soon be rocking his way around the world. Watch out.
Yuto will perform at Orange Peel Music Lounge in Central on May 2 at 3pm and 7pm