A Body of Sound

It was the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics, and the torch was entering the stadium. As the torch relay team circled the stadium, they were accompanied by a percussionist, Evelyn Glennie. Please watch a short clip here Evelyn Glennie Olympic Games 2012 – YouTube.  Earlier she had led a thousand drummers in the opening of the ceremony. For many, Evelyn Glennie is not well known.

Those who perform percussion instruments are often in the background of a musical performance. Evelyn Glennie has toured the world performing with classical orchestras as well as with musicians who are pioneering new forms of music. In addition to percussion instruments, she also plays the bagpipes. She is a composer of music, a music educator, a TED Talk contributor, and an advocate for music education in the United Kingdom.

Evelyn Glennie was born in Scotland in 1965. Her first musical instruments were the piano and clarinet. Her influences were traditional Scottish music but also a wide range of music from the classical to the eclectic. Growing up, she was a member of the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland.

Evelyn Glennie began to lose her hearing when she was 8 and became profoundly deaf at the age of 12. She uses all of her body to hear the music and often performs barefoot. Her teacher Ron Frobes taught her how to feel the music.

As a person with hearing impairment, she is an advocate of hope to those who struggle to hear. She has given a popular TED Talk called How to Truly Listen and published a book called Listen World!

Evelyn Glennie has been honored with 28 doctorates and the Order of the British Empire. She was also selected as laureate of the Polar Music Prize (the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for music). In 2021, she was named Chancellor of Robert Gordon University.

Evelyn Glennie is an exemplar of those who never gave up hope no matter what life situation they were challenged by. It’s hard to imagine what her life would be like if she let her hearing loss affect her life’s trajectory.

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“Every one of us is blind and deaf until our eyes are opened to our fellowmen, until our ears hear the voice of humanity.” – Helen Keller

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