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A Powerful Percussionist2011.03.02

    It is inspiring when you discover an artist who does something so exceptionally well that they seem to have been made for it. Many artists have talent, but what separates genius from talent is that genius knows no bounds. It breaks the rules and redefines the possible, easily crosses between disciplines, and has limitless energy to create.


    Meet Evelyn Glennie, a virtuoso Scottish percussionist who is shaking the world with her solo performances and motivational presentations. Born and raised in Scotland, she now tours the world, doing over 100 concerts a year as well as giving master classes, and is deeply involved in music education and presentation.


    Moreover, she has been profoundly deaf since the age of 12, and learned how to listen to rhythm and perform music with her limbs and body.


    She is as articulate as she is passionate about music, and shows us how much we miss when we follow the traditional approach of reading musical scores, limiting our engagement to our ears and intellect. She speaks about and demonstrates the process of listening to music with your whole body through deep emotional and physical engagement, in a talk for featured at


    Many talented musicians perform at a level of deep engagement, but few can articulate and educate about the process as well as Evelyn Glennie. Her artistic genius can express beautiful, entrancing rhythms and subtle nuances from the drum, the marimba, tubular bells, and a full range of percussion instruments. Listening to her talks and performances makes you feel this is the way music should have been taught. It is as if we have been robbed of the full musical experience by limiting it to the ear and the eye, separating music from life.


    “If I were not a physicist,” Albert Einstein once said, “I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.... I get most joy in life out of music.” Clearly there is more to music than we have taught. Contemporary brain research shows that music and language are processed in many of the same areas in the brain, and suggests that music and drama should be more incorporated into language study.


    Evelyn Glennie has an official website at, and a YouTube Channel, where you can enjoy many of her talks and performances at She studied at the Royal Academy of Music and performed with the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland, but now performs and teaches internationally. She now positions herself as a musician, motivational speaker, composer, educationalist, and jewelry designer, and she is quite active in raising funds for disabled children in Africa through AbleChildAfrica. Genius doesn’t rest easily in conventional categories.


    Recipient of many awards ranging from a Grammy Award in 1989 for Best Chamber Music Performance, to Best Studio and Live Percussionist from Rhythm Magazine, and entry into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame. Evelyn Glennie has also been awarded 15 honorary doctorate degrees from universities in the United Kingdom, and according to Wikipedia, is “the first full-time solo percussionist in 20th-century western society.”


    She describes how to hold marimba mallets, lightly in the hands and mostly with the little finger, and she plays them like a martial artist freely wielding a sword. Her connection to the drum is so close, that she can play it equally well with her hands, with drum sticks, or even with jewelry.

    Whether or not you play an instrument, you can learn from Evelyn Glennie how to listen and move to music with your whole body. To anyone who wishes to go beyond their limitations, or widen the boundaries of convention, Evelyn Glennie is an inspiration.



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    Article Writer

    William Reed

    William Reed is a renowned author-speaker who coaches physical finesse and flexible focus for a creative career path. A certified Master Trainer in Guerrilla Marketing and 7th-dan in Aikido, he combines practical wisdom of East and West to help you learn personal branding at the Entrepreneurs Creative Edge.

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