Hearing Impairment Series-Disabled Legend Dame Evelyn Glennie

Dame Evelyn Elizabeth Ann Glennie, DBE was born on 19 July, 1965 in Aberdeen. Dame Evelyn is a Scottish virtuoso percussionist. Dame Evelyn was the first full-time solo professional percussionist in 20th century western society.

Dame Evelyn was brought up on a farm in Aberdeenshire near where she was born. Dame Evelyn’s father was Herbert Arthur Glennie, an accordionist in a Scottish country dance band, and the strong, indigenous musical traditions of north-east Scotland were important in the development of the young musician, whose first instruments were the mouth organ and the clarinet. Other major influences were Glenn Gould, Jacqueline du pr’e and Trilok Gurtu. Dame Evelyn studied at Ellon Academy and the Royal Academy of Music.

Dame Evelyn tours extensively in the northern hemisphere, spending up to 4 months each year in the United States, and performs with an extraordinarily wide variety of orchestras and contemporary musicians, giving over 100 concerts a year as well as master classes and ‘music in schools’ performances. Dame Evelyn frequently commissions percussion works from composers and performs them in her concert repertoire. To date, these original works include 53 concertos, 56 recital pieces, 18 concert pieces and 2 works for percussion ensemble.

In a live performance she can use up to approximately 60 instruments. Dame Evelyn also plays the G Great Highland Bagpipes and has her own registered tartan known as ‘The Rhythms of Evelyn Glennie’. Dame Evelyn is in the process of producing her own range of handmade jewellery and also works as a motivational speaker.

Dame Evelyn is the patron of many charities supporting a wide range of causes including the deaf and hard of hearing, young musicians and people with a variety of disabilities.

Dame Evelyn has been profoundly deaf – meaning that she has some very limited hearing – since age 12. This does not inhibit her ability to perform at the international level. Dame Evelyn regularly plays barefoot for both live performances and studio recordings, to better “feel” the music.

Dame Evelyn contends that deafness is largely misunderstood by the public. Dame Evelyn claims to have taught herself to hear with parts of her body other than her ears. In response to criticism from the media, Dame Evelyn published her now famous Hearing Essay in which she personally discusses her condition.

Dame Evelyn has also featured on Icelandic singer Björk’s album Telegram, performing the duet “My Spine” and she has collaborated with former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett, Bela Fleck, Bobby McFerrin and Fred Frith.

On 21 November 2007, the UK government announced an infusion of £332 million just for music-education. This resulted from the successful lobby spearheaded by Glennie, Sir James Galway, Julian Lloyd Webber, and the late Michael Kamen; they formed the Music in Education Consortium in 2002/2003.

In 1994, Dame Evelyn married composer, sound engineer and tuba player Greg Malcangi, with whom she collaborated on several musical projects. They divorced in 2003 following her widely-publicised affair with Leonard Slatkin.

Dame Evelyn Glennie has won many awards, including:

  • Best Chamber Music Performance in the Grammy Awards of 1989.
  • Scot of the Year 1982.
  • Queen’s Commendation prize for all round excellence 1985.
  • Scotswoman of the Decade 1990.
  • Best Studio and Live Percussionist from Rhythm Magazine 1998, 2000, 2002, 2003 & 2004.
  • Walpole Medal of Excellence 2002.
  • Musical America Instrumentalist of the Year 2003.
  • Sabian Lifetime Achievement Award 2006.

Dame Evelyn Glennie is the recipient of 15 honorary doctorates from universities in the United Kingdom, was awarded the OBE in 1993 and promoted to DBE in the New Year’s Honours of 2007.

Dame Evelyn owns over 1800 percussion instruments from all over the world and is continually adding to her collection.

  • Touch the Sound (2004). Directed by Thomas Riedelsheimer, featuring a collaboration with Fred Frith

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