Music is one of if not the most important forms of communication that exists. At an independently organized TEDx Event in Brussels in 2011 Charles Hazelwood said, "music is the most universal language that we have, way more so than any dialect or tongue. You can play a melody to a child in China and the same melody to a child in South Africa, and despite the huge differences between those two children, they will still draw some of the same truths from that melody." Charles Hazlewood is an award winning conductor who founded the British Paraorchestra to give musicians of disability a platform to collaborate and perform. The father of four who's youngest child was born with cerebral palsy stressed the importance of the British Paraorchestra and its platform for gifted musicians of disability to the audience in Brussels. In making this point, Hazlewood compared great orchestras from the 1960s to those of today noting how these orchestras had gone from virtually no females to having a fantastic healthy balance of the sexes. According to Hazelwood, "There's a very small community of disabled musicians out there, and that's the tragedy of it…Those known on the professional circuit you can almost count on the fingers of two hands. You can't tell me there aren't thousands more similarly gifted disabled musicians in this country - but where's their platform, where's their infastructure?"
As the event continued to move forward, Hazlewood mades excellent points noting the Paralympics and how the validity of the disabled athletes involved is never questioned and the same should be the case for disabled musicians. Charles Hazelwood is determined to give gifted musicians of disability a platform, and with the British Paraorchestra it seems he has and is. At the TEDx Event in Brussels, he introduced for the first time ever, the first four members of the British Paraorchestra as they made their debut (click here to watch) featuring Clarence Adoo, Lyn Levett, Baluji Shrivastav, and Llyod Coleman. Clarence Adoo, who formerly played trumpet for Courtney Pine until 1995 when a terrible automobile accident left him paralyzed from the shoulders down, plays music on a laptop computer by utilizing a custom designed blow tube as a computer mouse. Lyn Levett, who has severe cerebral palsy and can only communicate by pressing an iPad with her nose, creates remarkable electronic music. Lastly, there is the sitar player and composer Baluji Shrivastav who has been blind since eight months, and Lloyd Coleman who is both deaf and sight-impaired. All these members make their living solely from music. At this point the British Paraorchestra is only made up of these four members but it is the hope of Charles Hazelwood that the British Paraorchestra will continue to grow closer to hopefully fifty members. Furthermore, Hazelwood is set on launching the British Paraorchestra in juncture with this years Paralympics which will be taking place in London.
It will be exciting to see whether or not Hazelwood is able to successfully in launching the British Paraorchestra at the Paralympics this coming year. Personally, I feel this is not only a notable and fantastic undertaking on the part of Hazlewood but also a fantastic and wonderful opportunity for gifted disabled musicians that should have been available long ago. Regardless of the outcome in the actual launch, the British Paraorchestra is the first orchestra of this kind and should be cheered, promoted, and supported vigorously. Everyone is capable of making music, and anyone who enjoys doing so should never have difficulty or be hindered in joining a group/band/orchestra especially because of something like sex, race, religion, or because of a disability.
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