This month as we celebrate deaf history month, we highlight the rocking musician Evelyn Glennie. Glennie, born in 1965, is a Scottish percussionist who started to lose her hearing at an early age (around 8) and was almost totally deaf by age 12. When asked in an interview how she hears the music being deaf, she answered, “with my body.” Like Beethoven, another great musician who was deaf, Glennie “hears” the music by feels the vibrations. In order to feel the vibrations better, she often performs barefoot. Glennie’s chosen instruments are percussion instruments, such as the xylophone, marimba, and various types of drums. Unlike pianists or violinists, percussionists are rarely used as soloists; they are more often used to accompany others, whether they play in an orchestra or a band in the rhythm section. Despite this, Glennie was not satisfied with being in the background and was determined to be a percussionist “in the spotlight.”
Glennie attended the prestigious Royal Academy of Music in London, and began performing all over the world, both as a soloist and with various orchestras, bands, and groups. Her repertory includes classical, popular, rock and folk. She is especially fond of folk music of her native Scotland (she can also play the bagpipe!). Besides performing, she has released numerous recordings and has won Grammy Awards in 1989 (Best Chamber Music Performance) and 2014 (Best Classical Instrumentalist Solo). She has won many other awards, including Scot of the Year (1982), Scotswoman of the Decade (1990), 28 honorary doctorates from various universities (to date), bestowed Dame of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II in 2007, and even performed in the opening ceremony of the London Olympics in 2012. She conducts master classes, interviews, motivational speaking, and makes films of her craft. Here are samples of her interviews and films:
- YouTube: Evenlyn
- Glennie - Listening is about looking at a person
- YouTube: Evelyn
- Glennie - How to truly listen
There are many other excellent videos of her performances and interviews available on YouTube.