Yesterday, I promised a very good friend of mine; Ruth Montgomery that I would mention my music on this blog.

Its actually quite apt to anyway, as I have been thinking a lot about music recently and what will change when I start hearing with the CI instead of hearing aids. It won’t be music as I know it anyway.

I was BIG into my music when I was younger. I remember very clearly asking to learn how to play the Clarinet when at primary school and the music teacher unfortunately ignored me. The second the music teacher at secondary school asked my class if anyone wanted to learn, my hand shot up and off I went.

I loved my Clarinet. I still do. It’s a beautiful elegant instrument. I played it for 8 years regularly and very fondly. I took my grade exams, I did GCSE and A Level Music and even went as far as doing first year Music at University. I played the piano as well, although nowhere near to the level I played my first instrument.

Ruth has gone on to be an incredibly successful Flute player. I’m very proud of her. She’s absolutely extraordinary and has played all over the world. She teaches Flute and also music to young children as well. Her determination has always impressed and excited me, she’s an inspiration to all budding musicians, not just those who happen to be Deaf.

My story isn’t quite so impressive, but I do have one all the same. The biggest achievement of mine, was when myself and Ruth were selected to travel to Russia in 1997 when we were just 15 and 16, to perform in a concert at the Great Moscow Hall to promote disability within music. It was a huge event, and a massive life changing experience for me. We played Handel’s “Air” from the Water music, on stage with the Moscow Youth Orchestra in front of an audience of thousands, including President Yeltsin. Ruth has since been back to Russia where she played on the same stage as we did all those years ago.

I gave up playing on a regular basis when I lost the use of my Left ear for good in 2001. As well as being the demise of my Clarinet career, it was also the start of using only one hearing aid which eventually led to me making the initial investigations into a CI for that ear at the start of this year. I struggled a lot to continue the Clarinet. I wasn’t getting the support that I needed at University, there simply was not enough belief in me that I could do it.

There is a lot of confusion about how Music and Deaf people can mix.  Music is not just about listening after all, there’s the theory, the beauty of manuscript, the logic, the creativity, the vibration and the relaxation element too. There is a magic about music that does not just have to be listened to. The support I had at Secondary School was out of this world, without the music department of Mary Hare Grammar School, I would never have had the experiences of learning and performing that I did. By the time I left school in 2000 I had performed on stages in Russia, the Netherlands, at the Anvil in Basingstoke, the Royal Albert Hall in London and for many important people such as Princess Anne and the Minister of Education at the time, David Blunkett. Music was my life.

I say that it was the loss of further hearing that contributed to giving the Clarinet up and I do maintain that. But if I’m brutally honest you don’t need to have a lot of hearing to be able to appreciate and enjoy music. Ruth still plays amazingly well after all. The hearing aids do a great job, but the vibration of sounds and beat is something else. When you understand the language of music, there’s a lot more to it than just listening.

I think a lot of it it was also the lack of support I received at university. And perhaps also, my knack for it was never going to be quite excellent enough. I was good, very good. But never exceedingly excellent and sometimes I felt that my success as a Deaf Clarinettist was only really because I was Deaf and it was considered an achievement in itself to be a Deaf musician. I don’t mean to play down the skill I had, I wouldn’t have played on those stages if I hadn’t had been good, but when I watch someone like Ruth play, it is out of this world. That is raw talent.

I do still play on occasion, but it’s not the same. I miss it a huge deal. I am really nervous about what the Clarinet will sound when I have the CI in place and switched on. Will it still sound as pretty as I remember? Will I regain my excitement and enjoyment of the instrument again? Will the sound of the low G note send thrills down my spine once more? I dearly hope so.



Here’s Ruth, profoundly deaf and playing flute with her father Roger on Guitar. Isn’t she absolutely fabulous? Enjoy!