During my life, I have been influenced by the following deaf and blind musicians.
I read the story of Evelyn Glennie and listened to her performance in the National Concert hall in Dublin. Evelyn, who is profoundly deaf, is a world class percussionist and performs with orchestras worldwide. She believes that deafness is poorly understood in general. As we all have different levels of hearing, it means we hear sounds, feel the vibrations and create movement through sight in different ways.
Paul Whitaker, who is profoundly deaf, has surmounted many obstacles to form his own orchestra for Deaf children in Manchester. Paul set up his music centre – Music and the Deaf - in Manchester 22 years ago. He plays the piano and organ and teaches music to deaf children and integrates them with the hearing community using sign language as their first language of communication. Using sign language and singing actually helps deaf children to express themselves and grow in confidence. This shows that there is a greater interaction and social inclusion for both deaf and hearing people, and it also helps to promote deaf awareness and advocacy.
I was also influenced by Elizabeth Petcu, who is hard of hearing. She is a former principal flute with the Radio Telefis Eireann Concert Orchestra. I performed at her special concert for the Hard of Hearing in Dublin in 2008. She wrote articles about her hearing problems which ended her orchestral career with the RTE Concert Orchestra. She says that for any musician to lose their hearing would be hard to cope with and "Beethoven is thought to have had it as well"
Andrea Bocelli is at present the world’s best Italian tenor and is also blind. From reading his story and attending his magnificent performance in the 02 in Dublin, I was fascinated by his achievement and determination in spite of his blindness. He never talks about his blindness but is once to have said, "My blindness is not a tragedy to me – I don’t see why it should be to others."
These people help prove that no matter how limited you are, you can still achieve your goals. I hope this will encourage people in similar situations to use their ability to break barriers. Using their own talents and gifts will give them greater confidence and help them express themselves freely. Music is for everyone, retrospective of age, disability, or race.
Phil Coulter, a pianist, songwriter and singer from Northern Ireland, had a great influence on me since I was a young child. One of my favourite songs is Scorn Not His Simplicity. He wrote this song about his son who has a disability.