Evelyn Glennie is a true pioneer within the deaf community. So who exactly is she?
Evelyn Glennie is the first person in history to have successfully created and sustained a career as a fulltime percussionist. She has performed across the globe with some of the greatest conductors, orchestras and artists. She fondly recalls having played the very first percussion concerto in the history of The Proms at the Albert Hall in 1992, which paved the way for other orchestras around the world to feature percussion concerti.
Evelyn has also had the honour of performing at the Opening Ceremony if the Olympic Games in London 2012 where she led a band of thousand drummers in the opening piece of music and then went on to play the Aluphone during the ceremony for lighting the Olympic cauldron.
A clip of Evelyn playing at the London 2012 Olympic Games can be found here:
Evelyn Glennie can spend a staggering 4 months of the year touring in the United States and she typically performs over a 100 concerts a year.
That’s Good And All But How Does She Fit Into The Deaf Community?
Since the age of 12 Evelyn Glennie has been profoundly deaf, having started to lose the sense of her hearing at the age of just 8 years old.
However, this does not inhibit her ability to perform at an international level and her list of performances are a testament to that.
To get a better feel of the music, Evelyn is regularly known to take her shoes off and perform barefoot in both her live and studio performances. There are no boundaries to what Evelyn wants to achieve. Her deafness doesn’t have the slightest impact on her ability or willingness to do anything and she strongly advocates removing the stigma and misunderstanding of deaf people. She claims to have been able to teach herself to hear with other parts of her body as opposed to just her ears.
Evelyn is regularly providing masterclasses and consultations for the public that she has specifically designed in order to provide the next generation with the information that will see them fulfil their ambitions.
Her inspirational documentary ‘Touch The Sound’ alongside her enlightening TED Talk entitled ‘How To Truly Listen’ both found here:
These remain very key testimonies for her approach to sound creation. Hearing her music, no-one would make the assumption she’s profoundly deaf, she is breaking down barriers and opening doors for future deaf musicians and percussionists.
Evelyn never makes a note of the fact she is deaf as she wants to stimulate the audience through her music and not have them in awe about how a deaf musician can play percussion. She claims “the media simply make stuff up” about her deafness and are misinformed on the topic.
Stating “Deafness does not mean that you can’t hear, only that there is something wrong with the ears. Even someone who is totally deaf can still hear/feel sounds”. Her slogan is ‘Teach The World To Listen’. Very wise words that continue to mean she is a positive role model within the deaf community.
“I am better at certain things with my hearing than others. I need to lip-read to understand speech but my awareness of the acoustics in a concert venue is excellent. For instance, I will sometimes describe an acoustic in terms of how thick the air feels”.
“My hearing is something that bothers other people far more than it bothers me. There are a couple of inconveniences but in general it doesn’t affect my life much. For me, my deafness is no more important than the fact I am female with brown eyes. Sure, I sometimes have to find solutions to problems regarding my hearing and its relation to music, but so do all musicians. Most of us know very little about hearing, even though we do it all the time”.
Although she is active in some 40 organizations for the Deaf, such as a programme that provides music-based therapy for hearing-impaired children, Glennie downplays her involvement, preferring to concentrate on elevating the art of percussion.
Whether she wants to admit it or not, we think she’s an amazing role model for deaf people and actually for hearing people too. Her focus has enabled her to achieve all that she has and is certainly something to be admired.
Did You Know?
Evelyn Glennie has achieved numerous awards throughout her career such as:
- Scotswoman of the Decade1990
- Best Studio & Live Percussionist from Rhythm Magazine1998/2000/2002/2003/2004
- Percussive Arts Society: Hall of Fame November 2008
- Polar Music Prize2015
– She owns over 2000 percussion instruments from all over the world and is continually adding to her collection.
– She is an Ambassador of the Royal National Children’s Foundation (formerly the Joint Educational Trust) which helps support vulnerable, disadvantaged young people at state and independent boarding schools throughout the UK.
We hope you have found this post insightful and enjoyable, until next time.