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Classical Sprouts: The art of listening with Evelyn Glennie

Percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie
Percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie

Scottish percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie has been a rockstar in the classical music world for decades.

She’s performed at an Olympic opening ceremony, has traveled all over the world to perform a wide variety of percussion instruments and styles, recorded on countless albums, she’s known as the first person to successfully create and sustain a full-time career as a solo percussionist and she’s deaf.

We’ll learn how this amazing musician uses her whole body to listen in today's episode of Classical Sprouts.

Born in Scotland in 1965, she started playing music at a young age. She played piano and loved participating in local country dances.

When she was about 8 years old, she started learning to play percussion in school. But, it was also around this time that she started experiencing hearing loss.

By the time she was 12 years old, she was profoundly deaf. But, she was also quickly becoming a very accomplished musician!

And, being deaf did NOT stop her from playing, and it didn’t stop her from hearing - just in her own way.

She explains that her teacher Ron Forbes taught her to hear with parts of her body other than her ears in her TEDTalk from 2003.

Sound exists not only as notes and pitches that we hear, but as vibrations and sound waves that can be felt, as well as sometimes seen, too.

So, she often plays barefoot during live performances and studio recordings to feel the music not just in her hands and fingers, but through her whole body.

Because of her many important contributions to the music world, she was even given the honorable title of being called “Dame” by Queen Elizabeth II she’s (That’s the equivalent of being knighted!)

And as a really in-depth listener, she’s able to create some pretty amazing music.

Check out some of these videos of her performing!

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Classical Sprouts is produced by Emily Duncan Wilson.

Spoiler alert: they didn't originate in Scotland! Kate and a special guest will tell you more about bagpipe history and performance.

Kate Botello is a host and producer at Classical IPR.
Emily Duncan Wilson is IPR's digital content manager and is the producer of "Classical Sprouts" and "Kids Commute".