Evelyn Glennie was born in Methlick, Aberdeenshire, Scotland on July 19, 1965. She is a composer and one of the foremost concert percussionists in the world. Incidentally, she began losing her hearing when she was eight years old, becoming profoundly deaf by age twelve. If you, like me, wonder how she can possibly perform at the virtuoso level, then we (and the general hearing public) have misunderstandings about disability, and Glennie hopes we will learn to listen.
Glennie’s early music teacher taught her to distinguish between sounds, starting with sounds that were clearly different and narrowing down to ever-smaller distinctions between sounds.
When Glennie auditioned for The Royal Academy of Music in London, she was rejected, she was told, because they “had no clue of the future of a deaf musician.” She questioned the validity of that criterion, and insisted they should evaluate her in comparison to other candidates, considering her “ability to perform and to understand and love the art of creating sound.”
The Academy requested that she audition a second time, and this time she was accepted.
But the win was not merely for Glennie alone.
From that time forward, no music institution in the United Kingdom would deny entry to the program purely on the basis of disability.
Her struggles in academia were not over. She challenged the traditional way music students were trained, insisting that rather than practicing exercises from a study book, she wanted to practice skills and techniques in the context of a piece of music.
In her work as a performer and a teacher and a speaker, Evelyn Glennie seeks to engage audiences at a deeper level, not just musically, but interpersonally. She wants people to learn to listen, not only to the music, but to each other as well.
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