Instrument makers across the globe are being invited to enter OHMI’s biennial competition for one-handed instruments. The deadline for the 2020-21 OHMI Competition is being extended to 31st March 2021 to allow for the disruption to workshop time caused by Covid-19.
The Competition challenges instrument makers, designers and technicians to develop an instrument or enabling apparatus that allows music-making for those living with an upper arm impairment. It’s work that is as needed today as it was when the competition was first established in 2013.
It has been a legal requirement for disabled people to be offered undifferentiated access in the workplace and in recreational settings since the Disability Discrimination Act was passed some 25 years ago. Yet when it comes to disabled people making music of their own, unlimited participation remains an issue.
Virtually no musical instrument can be played without ten highly dextrous fingers. This denies participation in musical life to those with congenital disabilities and to amputees, as well as the millions who may have been injured, suffered a stroke, developed arthritis or for whatever reason lack the full strength and control of their upper limbs. As a result, millions across the world are excluded from music-making for the lack of suitable instruments.
The Competition was first established when its organisers, The OHMI (One-handed Musical Instrument Trust), realised if access to music-making were to be made a reality, it relied on the invention of suitable instruments.
Dr Stephen Hetherington MBE, OHMI’s co-founder and Chair, explains why the creation of such adapted instruments is the catalyst for all other areas of OHMI’s work,
“Lack of instruments for use by those living with an upper arm impairment is the first barrier to music-making. Where there’s a lack of suitable instruments, it’s easy to write off music-making as an inaccessible activity. Requests, therefore, are not made of schools and music teachers to provide such instruments. Not realising there’s either a need or desire, there’s no driver for music teachers to investigate potential solutions. Music-making participation amongst those with a physical disability, of course, then remains low. In turn, that means there’s no impetus for instrument makers to make the required adapted instruments!
“By helping to create those instruments, OHMI helps to break this cycle. It starts with commissioning the design and manufacture of the instruments. It makes those instruments available to those who most need them through the OHMI Instrument Hire scheme, and in the most affordable way. It raises awareness amongst teachers and music hubs that there is a solution that allows any disabled pupil to enjoy the same access to music-making as their peers.”
Seven years on, the Competition has enabled the emulation of the Flute, Saxophone, Recorder, Clarinet, Guitar, and even the Great Highland Bagpipe! Enabling equipment has also been developed for most brass and woodwind instruments.
Instrument makers, designers and technicians submit their entries from as far away as Australia and Cote D’Ivoire. The musicians who benefit from the instruments are equally as far flung; with beneficiaries of OHMI’s work situated in North America and Australia.
To find out more about the Competition entry requirements click here.