Did you know that March is Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month? Its aim is to raise awareness for the 17 million across the world who are living with the condition. The awareness month is followed by World Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day which takes place on 6th October each year. In preparation for that event (for every musician knows their performance needs month of practice!), we’ve asked some of the OHMI music-makers who live with cerebral palsy to tell us about their experience of playing a musical instrument.
According to the charity Scope, CP is a condition that affects about 1 in every 400 children in the UK. It is usually caused by an injury to the brain before, during or after birth. It is a lifelong condition that affects muscle control and movement.
As an activity that requires strength, dexterity and coordination, the intricacies of music-making can be problematic for an individual living with cerebral palsy; at least to play to the standard they would like.
That is where the OHMI Trust comes in. The charity, now in its eleventh year, was set up to allow those with an upper limb impairment or weakness to play the instruments they want to play, when and where they want to play them. Through collaboration with some of the world’s most talented musical instrument makers, the charity now has a collection of some 300 instruments and pieces of enabling equipment, ranging from recorders and trumpets to keyboards and bagpipes!
As new instruments have been developed, OHMI has started working with appropriate organisations to teach and promote their use to anyone otherwise excluded by their disability. OHMI’s Music-Makers programme enables and supports one-to-one music lessons as well as participation in ensembles.
Our OHMI Music-Makers are learning on a variety of different instruments. They include one-handed recorders, where keys are interspersed between the tone holes of one hand to facilitate the notes of the other; trumpets and trombones supported on a floor stand; and electronic drum kits which allow the different elements to be repositioned to suit the player.
There is a reason why the Music-Makers teaching programme is so important for people living with CP and other life-long conditions, as OHMI’s General Manager Rachel Wolffsohn points out,
“For many people living with a disability, it’s often the case that they are represented by others in many aspects of their lives. Music-making is one area where it is not possible to advocate for another person; no-one else can play a musical instrument for you!
“It can be considered a human right of the individual to participate in music-making in the along with their peers. Every note, every sound, every effort, is the unique sound of the musician in question. That experience is incredibly empowering and really bolsters a sense of self and liberation, and opens up a whole new sensory world.”
Amongst OHMI’s Music-Makers are a number of gifted individuals from the CP community.
We asked them to tell us more about how playing a musical instrument has enriched their lives. Self-belief, determination and the opportunity to learn new things were common themes amongst the group.
Samiya, who has been playing the recorder for six years, tells us, “Playing the recorder helps with my confidence, so I believe I can do lots of other things.”
For Oliver and Amin, the best thing about playing the recorder is learning new pieces. ‘Sea-glass Serenade’ by Sarah Watts is a particular favourite for Oliver!
For Cian, who has been playing the trumpet for six years, his music-making helps him organise his thoughts. Knowing the difference an adapted instrument makes, we can only echo his wise words, ‘don’t let CP stop you achieving your best’.
You can see and hear some of our CP music community in action here: