This online discussion is open for comments March 18-24. An overview of these assignments and how you’ll be graded is available here.

There are no questions at the end of this post to get the conversation going. Use your own critical thinking to make this conversation substantial: compare or contrast its ideas to your own experience or other things you’ve learned about, think about what surprises you, and think about what aspects resonate with or contradict your own experiences. The approximate reading time of this post is 9 minutes, not counting any audio media.


Leonardo da Vinci - Vitruvian Man 1490
Leonardo da Vinci, “Vitruvian Man” (1490)

Our bodies carry us through the world. Sometimes we’re proud of our bodies; sometimes they fail us. Others react to our bodies: with pleasure, attraction, seeking comfort, recoiling in fear, or—before humans climbed to the top of the food chain—viewing us as prey. Each of our bodies is different, and that means we experience the world in slightly different ways: a space that feels claustrophobic to one person may feel cozy to another, or a distance that is easy to cross for one may be intimidatingly far for another. Weather that seems pleasant to you may be too hot, too cold, too sunny, or too windy for another person’s skin color, body fat percentage, or hair length. Your body is one of the first determinants in how you come to know the world physically and socially—how it feels, how it treats you, and your place in it.

One of the things that comes with living in a society is a sense of what is “normal.” We build doorways, cars, stairways, airplane seats, and clothing to fit the “average” body. Even the language we use implies that there is a baseline of normal, since we refer to some people as having disabilities or being disabled, but we don’t refer to other people as “living with abilities” or “being abled.”

Really, “normal” just average, the middle of the pack. And that means that almost no one is “normal.” We’re all above average in some aspects of our physicality and below average in others.

Bell-Curve

We’ve been talking a lot in class about our listening experiences and all the things that influence them: our past experiences, how we listen, where we listen… The same array of possible factors affects what music a musician makes, too!

Music can be seen as a musician’s interpretation of the world, and their interpretation partly comes from moving through the world in their bodies—each person has a unique array of physical attributes as well as all the sensations, experiences, attitudes, and assumptions that come along with his or her body. A musician’s unique musical perspective comes from how they walk, the rhythm of their heart and lungs, the physical capabilities or limitations of their music making, how people treat them based on their appearance, and what they notice from their physical vantage point.

Let’s look at some musicians whose abnormalities—including physical and mental disabilities—shape the sounds they make.

Physical disabilities

Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder

There are numerous examples of blind musicians throughout music history: Ray Charles (1930-2004) and Stevie Wonder (b. 1950) readily come to mind. And there are others, all of whom are imbued with a degree of reverence or magical awe by others, that somehow the loss of sight makes these musicians seem even more musically insightful

  • Friedrich Kuhlau (1786-1832), a German pianist-flutist-composer who lost his sight as a child when he tripped going down a set of stairs while hold glass containers, which shattered in his eyes
  • Blind Willie Johnson (1897-1945), a blues and gospel guitarist from Texas
  • Andrea Bocelli (b. 1958), an Italian pop-opera singer-composer

The eyes are so important that 19th-century meditating shakuhachi players adopted a reversed version of this blindness, covering their faces so passersby would be “blind” to the identity of the person playing the flute, allowing the sounds they made to seem even more timeless and powerful.

shakuhachi
Meditating shakuhachi players would wear a basket called a tengai to hide their faces while playing

Blind musicians have not traditionally participated in orchestras, because so much of the communication that happens in that ensemble is visual: gestures from the conductor. A pair of inventors in England in 2019 developed a haptic (vibration-based) baton to allow blind musicians to physically feel the visual gestures of a conductor:

Although the ability to see is crucial for much human interaction, it clearly isn’t an impediment to participating in music, which is a sonic medium. But deafness would be impossible for a musician, right?

That’s what Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) thought when he started going deaf at the end of the 18th century as a result of an infection, just as his career as a virtuoso pianist and composer was taking off. Suddenly, it was all gone: his livelihood, his life-long honed skills (he had been trained by his father from a very young age—remember this online discussion?), and the joy he took in listening to the birds and rustling grasses on his walks through the countryside. He already felt isolated and lonely—he wasn’t a particularly attractive man, and he didn’t have the patience to always mind his manners when speaking, to dress neatly, or to flatter the wealthy aristocrats of Vienna. So he’s a loner, someone who feels like an outsider in society, and he’s losing his one consolation: his exceptional musical talent.

In 1802, Beethoven went to Heiligenstadt, a country town outside Vienna where he would spend vacations. He was distraught—what point was there to living if he couldn’t be “BEETHOVEN THE SUPER AWESOME TALENTED MUSICIAN”? And he decided to kill himself.

Beethoven house Heiligenstadt
The house where Beethoven would stay while in Heiligenstadt

Spoiler alert: he didn’t.

Instead, he doubled down on being the best musician he could be, committing himself to creating music for the rest of his life, and he did so because he believed the world would be worse off if he did not. Think about the gravity, egoism, and confidence of that position: that Beethoven was so sure of his talent, his creativity, and his role in the world that he believed depriving others of his music would make him feel worse than the physical pain, social discomfort, and frustration of going deaf.

He penned a document now known as the Heiligenstadt Testament, in which he states that it was “only his art that held [him] back.” You can read the full text here: Beethoven – Heiligenstadt Testament

Beethoven’s decision not to kill himself—and to base that decision on the necessity of continuing to make music—plays an enormous role in his legacy, making him a revered, admired, intimidating, and inspiring figure for musicians and non-musicians alike from the 19th century onward (there’s more about the influential role Beethoven plays in music history here).

Deafness is less of an isolating trait today than it was in Beethoven’s time; sign language hadn’t yet been developed, doctors didn’t understand what caused deafness, and the idea of finding “empowerment” through overcoming challenges wasn’t anywhere near as popular of a narrative then as it is today (stoic resignation was a much more common reaction or attitude). Antoine Hunter, in contrast, is a deaf dancer-choreographer who runs a studio for other deaf dancers in San Francisco, and his life’s work is devoted to the empowerment of deaf people:

Just as with Hunter, being attuned to vibrations, even without being able to hear all of them, is part of how Evelyn Glennie (b. 1965), a deaf percussionist from Scotland, is able to perform—she’s typically seen onstage barefoot so she can feel what her instruments are doing, and her 2003 Ted Talk describes how she learned to better understand the world by using her whole body:

Mental health

Amy Winehouse. Jimi Hendrix. Jim Morrison. Kurt Cobain. Chris Cornell. Chester Bennington. Mac Miller.

Musicians who’ve suffered from mental illness and died from suicide and/or drug and alcohol overdoses seem commonplace. Mental health issues are common among musicians who are still alive and seemingly functional, as well, including anxiety disorders (Adele, Zayn Malik, Britney Spears, Barbra Streisand), eating disorders (Elton John, Paula Abdul, Demi Lovato), depression (Lady Gaga, Sia, Bruce Springsteen, Kid Cudi), and performance anxiety (extremely common in the classical music world—just think about the pressure surrounding orchestral auditions!).

Mental illness can be debilitating, particularly because it often doesn’t seem as obvious to observers as, say, a broken leg or a runny nose. There’s also a long-standing myth that creativity and mental illness go together—that abnormality and freakish talent go hand-in-hand—and it’s untrue, but for people whose identities are inextricably linked to being creative on demand, doing anything that might jeopardize that “gift” (like seeking professional help) can often feel unthinkable.

We partly have Beethoven and other 19th-century musicians to blame—Beethoven likely suffered from bipolar disorder. His letters, conversation books, and descriptions by contemporaries suggest this diagnosis, even though contemporary medicine did not contain that vocabulary yet. People found the idea of a tortured artist to be quite compelling in the 19th century, and this carried over into the 20th and 21st centuries. There are other examples of 19th-century classical musicians with diagnosed mental illness as well, and these reinforce the crazy-creative myth:

  • Hector Berlioz (1803-69), who self-medicated with opium and other drugs
  • Robert Schumann (1810-56), who walked himself into a river in his bathrobe to drown himself but failed and was committed to a mental institution
  • Anton Bruckner (1824-96), obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-93), whose depression was likely compounded by his shame over his sexual orientation and led to his suicide

When your body fails you

Then there are examples of musicians who don’t persevere—like Beethoven—and don’t spectacularly flame out at a young age—like Amy Winehouse—but whose bodies deteriorate and get the best of them over time, slowly changing or eliminating their ability to work: Lil Wayne and Prince, who both suffer from epilepsy; Maurice Ravel (1875-1937), whose compositional style changed as his brain deteriorated due to dementia; or Aaron Copland (1900-90), who simply could no longer come up with a single musical idea once Alzheimer’s set in (he lived for another 20 years after he last composed music in 1970).

Matisse - The Fall of Icarus 1943
The French artist Henri Matisse (1869-1954) turned to paper cutouts when his body would no longer let him paint after being diagnosed with cancer. The Fall of Icarus (1943)

“It was exactly as if someone had simply turned off a faucet.”

—Aaron Copland, describing his inability to come up with any musical ideas after his Alzheimer’s progressed

Avoidable injuries that musicians give themselves

There are also disabilities caused by music making. Overuse and excessive practice habits can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome and focal dystonia for instrumentalists. These injuries are common and often career-ending physical. There’s no cure for carpal tunnel syndrome (numbness and tingling in the hands and arms due to a compressed nerve) other than ceasing the activity that caused it—meaning, no more playing music. Focal dystonia, which causes involuntary spasms that contract muscles in the body, on the other hand, is neurological—it’s a problem in the brain caused by a “mismapping” of physical motions in the brain (the brain mixes up which muscles are activated by different parts of the brain, resulting in mixed signals). For musicians, this most often happens in the muscles they use to do the most precise work of playing their instruments: embouchures of wind and brass players, fingers of pianists. It’s possible to re-train one’s body and learn to play without triggering these spasms, as Chicago-based oboist Alex Klein was able to do.

The most common injury for singers is ruining of the vocal folds—Adele may never sing again because of her poor vocal technique, in which she creates a big sound by straining and tearing her vocal folds. Those kinds of vocal injuries are rarer in the classical world because operatic singers work with vocal coaches non-stop while in school and their professional careers to develop and maintain healthy technique. Melissa Cross is a vocal coach who works with metal and hardcore singers to be able to scream for hours on end, night after night on tour:

Music therapy

Music can also be used as a therapeutic tool to help people with all of the disabilities discussed above create a sense of home, belonging, confidence, and well-being. Making music is fun, motivating, social, and doesn’t rely on language skills—it’s an avenue for all kinds of people to find themselves.

When I’m not in class with you guys, one of the things I do is work at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music, which has the largest clinical music therapy program in Brooklyn and provides music therapy in schools, senior centers, and community centers at 38 sites across New York City. (I’m not a music therapist; I do other work for the Conservatory.) The Conservatory works with 1,600 children, teens, adults, and seniors to help them reach their developmental, physical, social, and emotional goals through music therapy, including people with developmental, cognitive, and neurological delays; Autism spectrum disorders; Alzheimer’s and dementia; and emotional and psycho-social trauma.

Below is a quick but touching introduction to the work the Brooklyn Conservatory does in its music therapy program:

Final thoughts

Disability studies is an emerging area of inquiry in the musicological world, with publications only appearing in the last decade or so. In his 2011 book, Extraordinary Measures: Disabilities in Music, music theorist Joe Straus frames the concept of “disability” as a social construct, not a medical condition: our societal needs decide and define what is “disabling” based on what activities we collectively expect, need, or value. There are aspects of music making that thrive due to traits that might otherwise be disabling—social anxiety, narcissism, autism, obsessive compulsive disorder—but these traits can be crippling in musical contexts, too. We don’t typically tell the stories of musicians whose physical, mental, or neurological traits completely prevented them from achieving fame, accolades, or success*—just the ones who were “normal” enough to use their abnormalities to their advantage.

*But what is success, really?

-Dr. J.

79 thoughts on “Music and disability (Online discussion Mar 18-24)

  1. Looking at this now is somewhat of a eye opener. You wouldn’t think or assume that so many issues could happen in the music world. I would assume most people would give up too if they were deaf or blind. It’s a tough obstacle to overcome your disabilities. They will always be there and be reminding you that their in your way. It’s not easy. It requires a strong will of heart. You’ll need to work twice as hard as normal people. Constant repetition. Every day until it your craft becomes perfect. The pressure will weigh heavy on you the more you push. But there will be times. You’ll cry. You’ll be in pain. You’ll probably say what’s the point. I could just give up now and stay where i am. But you know why your not giving up because your not satisfied where your at right now and you know your destined for something much better. Well, that’s what i assume what keeps pushing them. I like to think that the most toughest challenges have the most greatest rewards.

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    1. yes, I agree with your idea. I think disability can’t disappear the talent. As we know everyone should more strive to lives. but different between normal people and those artists are they should spend more time and effort to finish their dream.

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    2. I strongly agree with what you mentioned.You have made a lot of good points. But for some musicians I don’t see that when they have a disability they shouldn’t give up on there musical careers. They should take it as motivation to keep going and not let that stop them. I seen so many artists that I listen to but still manage to keep going despite of all of the obstacles they are currently going through. They shouldn’t feel that a disability they have will tell them to not keep going.

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    3. I agree with you but I also feel that people with mental disabilities have more to prove than people who aren’t faced with these obstacles. for us it’s easier to learn but for them it takes a lot more work and dedication so that could be good.

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    4. I agree with u it’s harder for a person with disabilities to be a musician or performer, maybe they don’t know how music sound or they don’t know what is actually sound? Because they deaf. It is hard for those people. But it’s also not easy for normal people too because being a musician requires a lot of passion, and hard work . Normal people sometimes give up too because of these reasons

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    5. I agree with that idea, but in a sense the challenges the artist faces are toughed and can receive the greatest reward can be a gray area since at the same time they would not receive anything. Do you think the more absorb the challenge is the more people would take notice on what problem they have?

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      1. What do you mean by not receiving anything ? Receive something in a material sense or non material ? Where the material sense would be status, fame, and money. But non material sense would be being a expert of your art or skill. But if your going at material than yes. You could succeed and rise above your disabilities and not gain any rewards. There plenty of skilled people who do not obtain these results. In non material the only thing you will achieve is just better yourself. Also to answer your question yes, challenges do help us take notice of our flaws. An Challenge is suppose to push you out of your comfort space. To see how much you can endure and see if you can beat it. And if you do win you become stronger than you was before.

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        1. I agree with you, I think they receive the reward o satisfaction with themselves, showing the world that nothing is impossible with hard work and dedication.

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    6. I strongly agree with you that it is hard to acknowledge how many problems there are in the music world. There are so many disabled people who are trying their best to fulfill their dreams with their talent, and nothing can hold them back. Their ambition is what keeps them going, and it is already really hard for people who don’t have a disability and I can only imagine how hard it might be for them, but they still work twice as hard to accomplish their dreams instead of giving up.

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    7. I agree to everything you said. As a guy blessed to be fortunate enough to be normal but still is having a hard time achieving my goal, I can only imagine what people with disability do to attain their achievements or goals in life but still are trying their best. People like them inspires me to be more driven and grateful. They make me realize that every time I complain, I should be ashamed of myself.

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      1. Don’t be ashamed. It’s alright to complain we’re all human here. Just acknowledge once in awhile what you have.

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    8. I liked how you pointed out the fact that this lesson helps us bring a better understanding of the obstacles and challenges within the music industry. I agree with you and I could assume that the majority of our peers can agree that taking this class and having these discussions brightens up our understanding of the music industry. How would you personally feel if you were in this position?

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      1. Funny you say that. I say this because in elementry school i had reading problems. It was hard for me to understand words. Where i had difficulty understanding words, remembering them, putting the letters together making the word and saying them. But eventually i learned and i don’t suffer from that problem as much.

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  2. As we know, many artists have a different disability. that disability made them different from normal people. For example social anxiety, narcissism, autism, obsessive-compulsive disorder. that disability was changed the artist’s lives. but it also made their products more successful. because of the artists will use different vision to watch the world. and they will put those detail into their products. based on this article, it shows when you lose one direction, you will get another way to face successfully.

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    1. I agree it’s basically saying that if there is any obstacle you always have to find another way to get around it to get something done.

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  3. People with disabilities are the same as any other human being and have unique traits in music meaning they can do something that I can’t do or society states the normal people can do. A person who broke barriers was a person by the name mentioned above Stevie Wonder because even though vision wasn’t the best, you can still voice your opinion or talent. In their mind, they don’t think like we do when we just automatically want to lose people of that nature don’t think that way. The people with disabilities have a clear mindset which is what you need in any field which is a quality I wish I had or anyone else. The disabilities are interesting because what they accomplish which are a lot of things, takes the negative out which is the dis. I am trying to say that they are able to do things just like us and they are more patient which strives them to reach their goal.

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    1. I find it interesting that I touch the point that disabled people are very patient and that by their patience they reach their goals. I personally believe that disabled people who have talent in something are already born with that talent and I think that patience is a complement because I have seen many people with a lot of patience and without talent.

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    2. I agree with you. I feel like people with disabilities view the world differently than us because of how different their lives are.

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  4. I agree with what you are saying about people that might have a disability with everything being clean of some sort. The way I looked at the situation is if someone were blind, deaf, or maybe even in a wheelchair. I liked one of the ideas you mentioned about people of this nature can make this certain thing exit. Someone that maybe doesn’t look normal in a sense but what is normal? The person with a disability talent is themselves because they are unique just being who they are, attempting, trying, even if the first try is not like the perfect attempt of playing the piano there is still a change and that is all that counts.

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  5. From what I read , I feel like when a musican has a disability it shouldn’t stop them from continuing the passion that got them here in the first place. The way I see it is that just because they are disabled doesn’t mean that they cannot do it anymore. Guys like Stevie Wonder and Andrea Bocelli are good examples because while they both can’t see like regular people they still didn’t want to give up on what they loved doing in music it showed the determination that they have to still keep going for them. I believe that they take it as motivation to keep doing it and to never give up. Overall I don’t see any disability make musicans surrender on what they always loved accomplishing sure it does changed their lives but can help bound them for much greater things.

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    1. I completley agree, theirs this interesting case of where a man suffered a condition preventing him to maintain new memories, he is at a complete loss of identity and practically lives the same day everyday, he thinks he has come out of a coma. them interesting thing is when paired to a piano he knows how to play and its almost a reflex. isnt that crazy? have you ever heard of anything like this?

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      1. Yes, I agree last semester i took a piano class allni remember few things may be because i stop practicing

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      2. In world best she know as a miracle. A violinist with just one hand . She won hearts of people. Even with her disability she never gave up on her passion for violin. With a mechanical hand she play perfect violin. This is an example of never giving up

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        1. It is amazing. Even though she lost an arm she can still play the violin like a pro. She still has that passion and motivation to play even with her disability. It is also very interesting to see her prosthetic arm move like how a normal violinist moves there arm. Truly amazing.

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        2. I love that she still follows her dream after losing her arm its truly encouraging and motivating to see that. It really shows true passion and that you can still be successful with your disabilities

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    2. i agree with you on not letting their disability stop them from moving reaching success , i believe it makes them work harder than ever to achieve what they love

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  6. Having a certain disability usually lowers a persons self esteem and makes them give up on the dream of becoming a musicians. But they are many disabled musicians such as Beethoven who is deaf, Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder who are blind and they are very successful. I’m pretty sure these men had to work extremely hard to make their craft great. A lot of obstacles had to be fought in order for them to coupe with their disability. But once they were able to live with there disability as if it wasn’t even a problem they became one of the best and successful musicians in history. I believe a disability can be tragic to someone, but it can also make someone work harder then they ever had before. Does anyone else think this way?

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    1. I do agree that self esteem is really important and one of the biggest factor of success, how would you raise someones self esteem when they are faced with a disability ?

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    2. I believe that your analogy is accurate. Its true I believe that what they lack in they excel in due to their determined motivation and will power. For instance an example could be found in Beethovens letter when her stated that the world needs his music. Many artist feel that they need to be heard and therefore they work hard towards their goal and refuse to give up. What do you think?

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    3. Yes, I also have the same way of thinking. It’s disheartening to have a disability or know of someone close to you who does. But I believe that their disability doesn’t define them and their identity shouldn’t be contained because of it. But I do think, for most at least, that their disability can be their fuel.

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  7. mental health is incredibly important and i didn’t realize how damaging it can be in this industry if you aren’t actively trying to maintain an equilibrium. I also didn’t know you can injure yourself while singing however i feel like i should have known because when i try to hit notes i have no business reaching for i do feel a strain. I feel like these things are probably easy to assume but because many people arent in music feilds they dont pay attention. Many like the finished product, not the formulas,attempts and training.

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    1. I also didn’t realize that mental health was a big issue among famous singers in the industry. When Demi Lovato and Miley Cyrus came out that they both struggled with mental health, I believe was an eye-opener into the lives of young female artists. They were such hits in the franchise “Disney,” and a big part of my generation with both their acting and their music. I believe most people my age can recognize a song from Hannah Montana or from Camp Rock. When they announced their struggle, especially when Demi came out with her drug usage, mental health amongst young celebrities became a big issue in Hollywood.

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    2. I didn’t think at all that someone could injured themselves through singer either, but if thinking about it overworking one self can injured your body so it can make a sense that overworking one area can be damaging. It is interesting how something can change the view on something that is vastly know.

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  8. Based on the article, I am astonished by people with certain disabilities talent when it comes to the music world. I grew up listening to Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles, both artists are that are known to be blind from a young age. I always wondered how and what motivated them to push through their difficulties and become the music icons of their generation. I feel like Stevie Wonder’s famous quote is important for this text, he said: “Just because a man lacks the use of his eyes doesn’t mean he lacks vision.” It’s important because it shows the drive that he had from a young age to be the man that he became, how he used his disability as an advantage to better his music. I think the same can be stated for other musicians who have disabilities, they use their disabilities as a motivation to exceed the expectations that are set upon them. Overall, I find it very inspiring.

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  9. This was for me the most interesting online discussion so far. Reading and learning more about those disabilities and mental illnesses makes you feel humble and lucky to be still still physically able to do so many things that a lot of others cannot. i was really surprised by the level of help that the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music is able to accomplish using Music. To really answer the question above, i will say that success in this type of circumstances is based on how an individual is able to OVERCOME those issues and also use them in some efficient purpose to produce their Art. the most successful artists and composer have overcome their disability and have used them beautifully during the creation of their art.

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    1. That’s a beautiful way to define success. We can all be successful in our attempts to overcome our own issues. why was this discussion the most interesting to you?

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  10. This discussion as a whole opened me to how music or composing music isn’t just physical means. Composers have used other senses and tools to help them do what they love and create music that is timeless. I find it highly motivational to hear that they use their disabilities as a tool to perfect their craft rather than look at it as a disadvantage.

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  11. I really liked this discussion. I found it interesting just how music can impact different people, and how people can also impact music. For example, how when Beethoven became deaf he didn’t let the deafness get to him. Sure at first he felt all hope was lost, but he overcame that and knew that he could still have an impact on people. I agree with @antoniosl20 that just because a person has a “disability” doesn’t mean that they still can’t do the things that a “Normal” person can. However, it is a shame that so many artists have been known to have mental illnesses, yet it appears that Hollywood and the music industry seem to cover it up and make it seems as if these artists are okay. I feel that it should be made more public and that artists who are dealing with mental health issues should seek help.

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  12. It’s amazing when someone with any disability strives to work harder, despite the obstacles coming in their way. One thing I learned from this reading is that someone who has a mental disorder has just as much obstacles in music or dance as someone with a physical disability. For instance, when Beethoven started to go deaf as he got older he didn’t just give up. I didn’t understand it as much until now that someone with a disability has a harder time working with music, this is only because I would usually see artists, such as Stevie Wonder performing on TV perfectly. The way some of these dancers and artists with disabilities continue to do what they love even if it’s not easy for them is admirable. Also how people have invented technologies to help those with physical disabilities creatively shows how good people can be in the world.

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    1. It really is amazing how hard a person with disability works to be able to do something an average person can do. I feel like we don’t give them enough credit for how hard they work.

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    2. I love how you noted that Beethoven had to overcome his crippling depression as well as his physical handicap. The mental hindrance is also a huge barrier disabled artists have to overcome, and it is indeed admirable that they continue to press on and face their challenges head-on.

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  13. Reading this discussion made me realize how much we take things in our life for granted. people with disabilities have to work much harder in life to accomplish their goal and yet some how they do. reading this discussion didn’t really surprise me because about a year ago I saw a group of kids with disabilities perform music. one of the kids was blind and had trouble even getting to the stage but once he started playing the piano he knew exactly what to do. this was the first time I realized just how much we truly took things in our life for granted.

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    1. We do take things granted. I think once we lose the ability to do something, or there is a potential threat that we might lose the ability or even a person, we try extra hard to maintain it. Let’s say, if I lose my hand, I will try to somehow make myself believe that I do not need it, which might lead me to desperately practice something that requires hand, and by that, I will out-hard-work the people who have both hands.

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    2. I find that story inspiring. Despite the fact that the child was lacking an ability that we use everyday, it didn’t stop him from honing his talent, and impressing everyone in the room with his talent. I feel like instead of pitying him, we should be revering him for his hard work as a pianist, because that’s what he got on stage to show everyone. Just goes to show that its what you can do that matters.

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    3. I agree with you when you say that you are not surprised to read this article because you had the experience of appreciating the talent of people with disabilities, and your argument reminds me of an Italian artist named Andrea Bocelli he can not see but he sings and plays the piano very good. I’ll leave you a link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9RzTzAsVZYw

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  14. This weeks discussion was inspiring. People with physical and mental disabilities who are involved with music, show their strength and passion. It was nice learning about Antoine Hunter and Evelyn Glennie although they can’t hear the music, they’ve learned to listen with their bodies and teach others.
    I also think its sad how many artists we’ve lost due to mental health. I wouldn’t think musicians would have so many issues. I always believed they could express themselves in their music and that would be their therapy. I’m glad we have things like the Brooklyn conservatory to help people with their issues.

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    1. Me too I think what they’re doing at the Brooklyn conservatory is inspiring because they’re working to make a difference in someone else’s life with disabilities. Music therapy is great because music can bring out a positive response from the person who is listening.

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  15. I think it’s amazing how people with certain limitations use their weaknesses as their strength. Despite their disabilities, they continue to do what they love and I admire them for their determination and courage. They motivate me to work harder in life because it makes me think that if they can do it, I can do it too.

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    1. You are right, I think there are many things that people who fall in the normal category take for granted. we do not observe that we are stronger than we think. We can do so much more if we put our minds to it. People with disabilities do much more than we imagine when they properly facilitated.

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  16. It is great to know that music can be used as therapy for people who have mental and other disabilities. While doing a rotation at an occupational therapy depart, the patients were all diagnosed with metal illnesses but the therapist taught us to use music as a form of therapy for the patients. For example patients who were depressed would be exposed to music with fast beats and patients who were overactive were places given activities with slower music. I do not know if that is whats done at the Brooklyn Conservatory but music is an excellent form of therapy for people with mental illnesses.

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  17. Music being a therapy is a great thing to hear and learn, it’s something that can sooth the mind and help other people at it too. Just thinking about it i do wonder if music therapy can range to more harder mental illness to calm down or help people, like schizophrenia? All this form of treatment with music is a eye catcher to be able to help more people through music than ever i seen before.

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  18. I think now there are many ways to let people with disabilities play music. Thinking about the ways that can help a disabled person play a musical instrument is with prosthetics. For example James Barnes lost his right arm but he got a robotic prosthetic arm to help him play the drums. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=io-jtlPv7y4
    After doing some research it is interesting to see many prosthetics help disable people play music. there is one for almost all the instruments like strings, drums, and even the piano. I think it is wonderful that the world we live today gives opportunities for disable people to enjoy playing music.

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  19. Disability isn’t something which someone asks for. Some are born with them and others might acquire them throughout their lives unwillingly in some form of accident. I found it quite shocking, how many disabled people are into music, and how they don’t let their disability doesn’t stop them from accomplishing what they love. Music is something which a lot of people love and it was interesting to know that people who are blind, not only play music but create music as well. I can only imagine how hard it might be for people like them. If I talk about myself, I don’t think I would have so much will power to do what people like these do, and I believe that people with disabilities who work so hard in their lives to accomplish their goals should be respected because not everyone can do what they accomplish.

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    1. I agree with you when you say that a person does not pick to be born with a disability. I feel like some people are quick to judge others who have a disability.

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    2. @Ayyan1221 – I truly comprehend what you are trying to say in this online discussion. People with disabilities have a great disadvantage of listening and making music of their own due to their medical history. I would be in the same position as you when it comes to not having the courage to do what they do best especially with music. They have the strength to push themselves to be successful and they inspire me because they never give up and they would not let social barriers, like critics, get into their way.

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    3. Totally agree with you, they teach us that our “problems” seems small compared to theirs and we do not have any disability so we can achieve our goals without excuses.

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  20. A musician that has a disability can be successful and talented. Having a disability does not mean you can’t be talented. Stevie wonder is a great example of a musician that became very famous. He is a blind singer and he plays a few instruments. I find this very incredible that he can play instruments without his eye sight. I think that people with disabilities deserve more credit for being able to do something that an average person can do. They work harder to strive for success.

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  21. I agree with this article music can be used as therapy. Also I feel like sometimes when people have disabilities it makes them develop or sharpened their senses for example if a person is blind they often are used to listening or touching things more often which helps them sharpen their listening when it comes to sounds. sounds connect to music.

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  22. I think that the most important thing to be gained from this reading is the idea that disabled people are just as human as the rest of us. They enjoy the same things that we do because those things are what make all of us human. We all enjoy food, social interaction, culture, and music because that’s what makes us human, regardless of what challenges you might be facing. So, because those with disabilities are human, they are just as capable of contributing , and just as eager to, as any other musician. Maybe we should stop focusing on what makes us different and start focusing on what makes us alike: in this case, music.

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    1. I agree with you on all of us being human no matter the conditions we’re dealt with. In which cases do you see that we differentiate people with disabilities in a bad way?

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    2. Couldn’t have said it better. At the end of the day we are all human, no matter how rich nor how poor we all enjoy the same things and should all have a equal opportunity to enjoy life. Like i said in my comment a person who finds away to overcome an obstacle in there place should be given more recognition, which is in fact the case sometimes. Some of the best people I’ve met in life were struggling with internal problems but never deserve to be treated differently. “Love the life you live, live the life you love.” said from one of my favorite artists Bob Marley.

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  23. This article is one more great proof that nothing can really stop creative artistic spirit. I want to concentrate on the mental health issue. I think every person on earth has a little dose of mental issues, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and everything else, but clearly, some people have it harder than others.
    Seeing all the famous people systematically ending up with suicide is another great hint that we have to look closer to our lives and realize that fame means nothing and it’s a cure for nothing. Mental health is something more important than money and fame. It’s not a coincidence that so many successful people take their own lives.

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  24. @DJNazzyNas – You actually make a good point. People with disabilities are not aliens or inferior, they are real human beings just like us. However, what do you mean by “what makes us different and what makes us alike”? Please elaborate on that.

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  25. This was a great read and learning experience. I have much more respect for Beethoven now than I did before I took this class. Now that I’ve read this article and viewed the video clips of the blind percussionist Jeon Kyungho and deaf dancer-choreographer Antoine Hunter and discovered just how much support is out there in the form of technology and just more knowledge and acceptance about disabilities I have even more respect for Beethoven. He lived in a time where there was essentially no support and acceptance of disabilities and so when he went deaf it would surely have meant the end of his career for almost anyone. I greatly admire how he conjured up that will, determination and sheer optimism to continue his works despite of his new great physical challenge of being deaf. How is a musician supposed to play music effectively if he cannot hear it. He basically relied on his knowledge of music to simply “know” or “remember” the sounds of music as he composed his works after becoming deaf. He was so aware of the importance of his work to society and so understood that his works were greater than himself and so could not afford to be selfish. He could not afford to dwell on his misery due to the loss of his hearing.
    It is great to know that today there is more support out there to help musicians with disabilities. Technology is a great enabler but what I admire the most out of all of these examples of musicians with disabilities is there will to not be deterred. I would have liked to have seen Jose Feliciano be used as another example of a musician, composer and performer who overcame a disability and became very famous and successful. He was born blind and he found music as his outlet. Here is a link to a youtube video that highlights some of his works –> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ztwPIKGMfQg

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  26. Having disabilities does not mean that you are not talented, also it should not limit your creativity . This article was really inspiring and motivating because even though these musicians have disabilities they still followed their dreams and rose above their disabilities which shows true passion and determination . We have a great example , Beethoven even though his hearing was gone he went on to write some of his best work . Beethoven is not alone in his this regard there are many successful musicians like Stevie wonder and Ray Charles. Music is a way to express creativity , and i believed that’s why these musicians didn’t let disabilities get it the way of something where they can express themselves. I think they themselves found motivation in it and that they could inspiration to others. Does anyone think that musicians should talk more publicly about their disabilities or struggles?

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    1. I agree with you! While reading this discussion and realizing how many artists I know have some type of disability I started to put together that no one really talks about their disability, Yeah they inspire people but they don’t let their life story and struggles out. It would be extremely helpful to people struggling the same as them.

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  27. When you hear that someone has a disability, you would assume that they are not able to participate in certain activities. Reading this weeks discussion opens your eyes to where you are able to realize that even if you are blind, deaf, in a wheelchair, etc you are still able to do whatever you may please. The artists that are discussed throughout are true miracles and have inspired many to follow in their footsteps. You slowly realize also how complex the brain is that it is able to open up in a way to where you are able to feel the vibrations in music and calculate them to create sweet melodies.

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    1. It’s amazing to see how they are able to connect or be in tune with things such as the vibrations of certain sounds and create something guided by those vibrations. It made me think of the concept of mind over matter and how our bodies are able to adapt to our circumstances.

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  28. I’m on the fence with the stance Joe Straus has on the idea of disability being a social construct. I’m not trying to say that people who have a certain kind of impediment have a limited life because I do not agree with that. I believe they can have a full life. I’m aware that there are conditions, whether physically or mentally, that can limit an individual’s senses, movements, or activities. It just doesn’t determine what you decide to do, overall with yourself, your life, and with others. Beethoven is a prime example in persevering against all odds, even the ones coming from your own body. He did not end it all nor did he gave up. Beethoven continued to compose and proved to the world that he still meant something despite the condition that hindered his experience. I find it beautiful how music can move people. As seen in Olu and Connor who participate in the Brooklyn Conservatory music therapy program, music allows people to transcend their reality and become a better version of themselves. From personal experience, I can say how helpful music has been in my own life. It’s cool to see how it impacts and inspires others in the way they look at life as well.

    I want to include a video of a girl named Ruby. It’s a 30 minute video but at approx. 14 minutes in a teacher talks about how she loves music and it’s heart-warming to see the positive impact music has on her and many people with similar stories.

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  29. I didn’t know that a lot of musicians had mental illness or a disorder, but the impressive thing is that anything stoped them to be the best musicians. They had to work really hard and learn other ways to improve their disabilities and teach other people that nothing is impossible and if they did it we can do it too. I cannot believe how much pressure musicians have in this world that this brought them to commit suicide or have depression, anxiety. When something that you love makes you feel depress it means that you are not enjoying what are you creating and at this point is not good for you.
    I understand how musicians feel when the body just fail them, it’s not even their fault its just nature sometimes. I play basketball since I was 5 until when I was 16 my knee started hurting every time I run and the pain was awful that I had to quit and I couldn’t even walk. It took me 4 years of rehabilitation working hard every day but when a come back it was not the same. When you are doing something that you love and started hurting means that something is not good. It’s sad that we lost big musicians because of depression or disorders.

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  30. Being someone who was never particularly interested in the metal or “hardcore” genre, I was very surprised to learn that the singers would actually blow their voices out during their recording sessions and even live shows. The dedication to endure that for the sake of musical passion is just staggering. What’s even more interesting to know is that people like Melissa Cross has devoted their time to coaching these singers to continue doing what they love while keeping their vocal folds intact. It’s amazing to me that there are techniques that can actually prevent people from ripping apart their vocal folds and coughing out blood.
    Time and time again, artists and composers have shown us that disabilities don’t control them, they control their disability. Reading the first half of the article reminded me of a singer I once watched on America’s Got Talent named Mandy Harvey, a woman who went deaf at eighteen years old due to a connective tissue disorder. Needless to say, she is an amazing singer, and getting a golden buzzer from Simon Cowell is like winning an Oscar, but she got one.
    I think this is the definition of success for artists with disabilities. Not the fame and net worth, but their ability to view themselves with someone with just as much potential as someone who isn’t handicapped. This is a true talent that not many people have, but people like Beethoven And Harvey are truly great examples.

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  31. In my opinion, people with disabilities have stronger mental capabilities. People like them are twice as hopeful, persistent, strong-willed etc than any normal people can be. These musicians are a living proof that anything can be achievable as long as you are willing to put up the effort and work to reach for it. I’ve been a fan of Stevie Wonder since ever and still he continues to inspire me. He did not let his blindness stop him from seeing that anything can be possible. He make me realize that blindness is only for the eyes but not for the mind. These people used their disabilities as their strengths and did not limit their own capabilities. They went through more than any of the fortunate people did. Sometimes normal people are ungrateful and lacks in spirit. If a person with these circumstances are more strong willed than any most of the normal people, who is more disabled?

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  32. Before this reading, I didn’t know how many artists had or have disabilities or disorders and I never thought that it can interfere with their talents. This reading was also inspiring because although these people struggled to continue doing what they enjoyed, they found a way to work with what they were dealing with like the man who was in a car accident, Kyungho and Hunter. It also made me realize that I still believe that we take our senses for granted.

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  33. This article helped explain how some of these great artists overcome there obsolesces. I always admired how an artist who was deaf would be able to make music just on vibrations, and how blind musicians use the sense of touch to play instruments. in all honesty I feel that artists who have a physical or mental obstruction in their way and find a way to work past that, get more recognition and props. Its something to know how to play or write music but its a whole different thing todo this with a disability in the way. Also i feel as if these disorders give the musicians a different perspective to music and what it truly is, a perspective that a regular person like myself could probably never pressie.

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  34. Overall I really enjoyed reading these lessons and watching all of the videos revolving the topic. Physical and mental disabilities do not limit the capacity of a human being with determination, will power and fulfilled desire. I believe that a lot of this information could be useful to spread to everyone within society and to uplift and acknowledge the efforts and obstacles within the music industry.

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  35. When we see disability in our everyday lives, we do not acknowledge the struggles people with disabilities face. Since birth / traumatic event in their lives, it has been very hard for them to either verbally communicate or physically express themselves. They can not help what they mental / physical disability they have, but they try very hard to live a normal life. However, even though people with disabilities sense they have a weaker advantage of accomplishing their goals/dreams like creating music they love. Although, that would not stop them from achieving them because they know they are fighters and they won’t let any barriers get into their way. On the other hand, certain people with disabilities know that they should not care what other people think about them and that they should focus on what makes them happy. For example, music therapies support people cope with their specific disability in a positive way by helping them improve their self -esteem. For example, according to ‘Disabled Worlds Towards Tomorrow,”
    https://www.disabled-world.com/medical/rehabilitation/therapy/music.php
    music therapy works with disabled people on increasing their social skills by encouraging them to be involved in performing music with others exactly like them without feeling isolated and not belonging with anyone. Overall, people with disabilities participation in activities like music emphasizes how they have something to enjoy, that it makes them realize music has their back and they will always have something to inspire and push themselves to be the best as they can be to accomplish what they could not imagine doing on their own.

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