There Is No ‘Disability’ Without ‘Ability’….

Last weekend I went to Space Gallery to see Gaelynn Lea , a violinist and songwriter who was clearly born with musical genius but has recently burst into the spotlight due to the NPR Tiny Desk Concert Contest which she WON! (against our band… no hard feelings! ;)). I was completely blown away and have since had Lea’s album, The Songs We Sing Along the Way, on repeat in my car. Her voice is full, clear, honest, and unlike any female singer I’ve ever heard. The lyrics have moved me to deep emotion and clarity, providing a sense of peace. I haven’t even dug in to her other albums yet, because I’m enjoying this one so much.

As described on her website, “Gaelynn has a congenital disability called Osteogenesis Imperfecta, or Brittle Bones Disease. In recent years, she has used her music as a platform to advocate for people with disabilities and to promote positive social change.” At the Space Gallery show, the ED of Disability Rights Maine moderated a Q&A – my favorite thing about it was that ALL of the audience questions were about Lea’s music, not her disability. My heart was so full from being in the audience, I wished everyone I knew could have experienced it. Particularly some of my clients who are differently abled or whose bodies don’t quite fit around the musical instruments they’re trying to play. It can be so discouraging to a) not have the adapted tools necessary to create and b) not have representative role models. But they are out there. And the more opportunities for the general public to see these role models, the BETTER.

With most assumptions about ‘groups’ of people, it isn’t malintent but unfamiliarity on the part of the assumer. I have watched strangers shout slowly at adult clients with cerebral palsy enough times to know this- and people with disabilities have, forever, had to be the bigger (:more patient, more kind, more generous) person. I’m so looking forward to the era when media is representative of the gorgeous diversity of humans- and not in the “We have one person in a wheelchair on this TV show and their entire character is about the chair” sort of way- the ‘Gaelynn Lea writes and performs incredible music and the audience doesn’t have any questions about her chair way’.

So with that, go check out Gaelynn Lea’s music. Try not to make assumptions about people who look different from you. Do ask questions. And if you have suggestions of other inspiring artists, please let me know!

Kate Beever

About Kate Beever

I am a board-certified neurologic music therapist and owner of Maine Music & Health, which provides services and consulting to healthcare and arts agencies throughout the state.