15. Glasgow Studio Orchestra & embracing disability.

I wanted to write a little about this marvellous new pro-am orchestra which I am very pleased and proud to be a part of. Glasgow Studio Orchestra and the conductor (Iain Massey) gave me an initial step back into the more practical side of music after a long battle with ill health and too much time spent in the living room with books and a laptop getting a PhD! And now 5 months later I cannot quite believe where this initial step has led me so far … to 2 concerts, a commission through Drake Music and a successful audition with the British Paraorchestra.

I used to play the clarinet … a lot …. to the extent that it felt like an extension of myself. I thought myself to be an able player with strengths more in the expressive side of my playing rather than a fantastic technique but at any rate not really of the caliber to make a living as a performing musician. I played some chamber music in the years following graduation from the BA (Hons) Applied Music at Strathclyde and then came the big changes and I found I couldn’t play at all for several years. This led to a loss of identity somehow ….. does that sound very dramatic!? Sorry about that! I imagine it’s akin to someone not being able to drive a car any more, something like that (but perhaps a bit more personally devastating if you see what I mean!? Although if you are an F1 driver or something similar then it would obviously be equally devastating to a person and no offence intended!? ).

And so passed the years and the cerebral side of music came to the fore. I studied and wrote music but I stopped playing any musical instrument or singing completely. The switch had been turned off …. for good I thought. But there was definitely something missing. I’ll be the first to admit that I have a tendency towards the more melancholy side of the emotional spectrum and in those years when I didn’t play (or, interestingly, listen to much music except for study purposes) I was more often than not somewhat down of mouth (to put it mildly). Those of you dear readers who know me well will also know how stubborn I can be (thrawn is probably a better description!?). And I cheered a little when I found I could do a PhD and then cheered a little more when I was accepted for music therapy training. Everything took me a bit longer than it used to, I had the energy and stamina of a used tea bag, a distinctly fuzzy brain and a pair of Elvis legs. I always have this thought in mind though, “It could be worse, right”!?. However I was still living a life predominantly at home and more specifically from the (very comfy & safe) sofa.

In September of last year I chanced upon a book of the Faces post about a new orchestra being formed in Glasgow looking for players (it being conducted by Mr Iain and having generations of Applied Music bods made the prospect more appealing). My furtive little mind jumped upon the tiniest possibility that I could actually leave the house and be part of something…… And to cut a long waffle short I did but with a bassoon and wheels! The frankly splendid Mr Massey gave me a chance and a bassoon and I was away (with the fairies mostly!). On 31st October 2012 I found myself solo on a train for the first time in 7 years and then in a rehearsal for the first time in a decade!? Completely mad but brilliant! I swear that the moment I said bollocks to disability and decided to have a go anyway life got better and it started with this orchestral adventure. If I may explain a little, my left arm is unreliable and prone to misbehave …. half of my face is permanently numb …. in a nutshell this makes playing the clarinet very difficult. For some reason I have found myself able to play the bassoon (I played a bit in Strathclyde Uni days) because the reed/ mouthpiece is smaller and the instrument doesn’t have to be supported completely by your own arms. Classic! In that moment I reconnected with the past and found a new musical way forward. I’m now also playing Eb clarinet and Alto sax too just for variety (?!).

I cannot begin to describe the ways I was terrified on 31st October last year but it all went surprisingly smoothly and the disabled musician travelled in wheelie to Glasgow and back without mishap (wheelies are prone to mischief don’t you know!?). By far the most terrifying aspect of it all was finding myself sitting within the ranks of an orchestra again. I felt so completely rusty and out of my depth! My brain took longer to process the notes and get the rhythms, to watch the conductor, to count the bars rest and mostly not to parp in the wrong place at an inopportune moment with a half-functioning bassoon….. it hasn’t been easy and I’ve taken a while to get back up to speed but with a newly over-hauled instrument and new neural pathways developing (brain plasticity if you will!) it’s improving all of the time. I should like to take this chance to thank everyone who has supported me during the past few months both logistically and empathically ….. Thanks also to Mr Iain and my fellow players at the orchestra for their great understanding, welcome and patience while I get used to being a performing musician again! I love the bassoon and I’m getting better every day …… honestly!

For your ears here is a recordings from the concert “Tearjerkers” taken a few weeks ago. There are other recordings available of the orchestra too on Soundcloud so have a gander. Enjoy x


About Ultraviolet101

Musician, composer, music therapist, writer and all round nutty person. I get about in a wheelchair (or wheelie which is a much more friendly term!).
This entry was posted in Disability, Musician, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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