Evelyn Glennie is a world class solo percussionist having won 80 international awards throughout her career. Evelyn is profoundly deaf and hasn’t let this stop her from doing what she wants to do. Evelyn has one mission, and that is “to improve communication and social cohesion by encouraging everyone to discover new ways of listening. We want to inspire, to create, to engage and to empower”.
Why do you think it’s important to have disabled people in the music world?
Visibility of disabled people within the music world (but not exclusively, obviously) is crucial for building a more inclusive society.
I also believe we still have a lot to learn from disabled people, in how they cope, how they perceive and interpret the world around them. We are all so fixed in our own ways of navigating through life that we often forget there are other ways to engage with what’s around us.
Did/do you find any hardships with your job? How did you overcome them?
Once my interest in music was firmly established, even diminished hearing couldn’t discourage me. By the age of 12, when I began learning percussion instruments, my hearing loss was profound (I do have some residual hearing). However, I simply refused to treat it as the main focus of attention! Deafness was and is part of me.
I never get tired of praising my primary and secondary school teachers for encouraging me to pursue my musical career. I first learned to recognize high and low sounds by placing my hands on the inside wall of the music room while a teacher struck a timpani. Some of the pitches made my fingers tingle, while others were felt all the way down to my wrists and other parts of my body. I realized my body acted like a resonating chamber.
What are your career and life aims?
For the last few years I’ve been working in putting together a Centre that will bring together my legacy and beliefs, a place to offer people access to experiences and alternative perspectives concerning the nature of listening. A Centre that will create a venue for events, which will be provided by a range of experts, and a space for the public to engage with sensorial learning experiences.
I want this Centre to deliver the best possible environment for people to deconstruct the act of listening in order to understand what it really involves. We all need to realise why listening amounts to more than hearing.
What would you say to anyone wanting to get into the music industry yet are scared to because of their disability?
Like you my hearing had the potential to stop me from doing the things I loved. I never gave up and neither should you. Remember, some challenges can actually help us to build self-confidence and as soon as you realise this, your confidence will grow and you will flourish.
What has been your proudest achievement?
I am proud that the career of full-time solo percussionist has proved itself to be, without doubt, sustainable, which was my aim from the start. I am also proud that I have discovered news ways of listening, without which I would never have been able to pursue my career. I want to encourage other people to do the same thing – to unlock their own potential.
For further information on Evelyn Glennie please visit her website for more details.