By: Samantha Cantrall, Communications Specialist
Are you aware of the violinist, Gaelynn Lea? If not, you should be. This woman is a professional musician, expert conversationalist, and motivational speaker all wrapped into one. She hails from Duluth, Minnesota, and she happens to live with a disability called Osteogenesis Imperfecta, or Brittle Bone Disease.
I was lucky enough to experience one of her concerts recently, and it blew me away. Some of the people Hammer supports attended as well. Gaelynn was hosted by a local disability arts organization called Upstream Arts, and she played her show at Surly Brewing Company. Before I discuss the concert and artist, let me first commend Surly Brewing for the beautiful space they offered us for free, as part of their nonprofit Monday deal. The mood was set by the space, and the food, beverages, and company could not be beat.
Gaelynn Lea has been playing violin since she was in fifth grade. She gave a shout-out to her first music teacher, who worked with her to adapt her style of playing, so that she would be able to play the instrument. Her methods may be unconventional due to her disability, but her music sings. The night began with a few Irish fiddle tunes, and then took off into some of her own compositions. Her sound was hauntingly sweet, looping slow and smooth violin riffs on top of one another until the entire hall shook with sound.
After a short intermission, Gaelynn again took the stage, this time as a speaker and activist. In her allotted fifteen minutes, she spoke about her top three advocacy priorities regarding people with disabilities: accessibility, healthcare reform, and art. She implored her audience to pay attention to these issues, as they affect the disability community everywhere. “It has to be part of our consciousness to gain traction,” Gaelynn noted.
Gaelynn also spoke about her ideas of enrichment as a measure of success, rather than personal progress. “Some people cannot measure success in terms of progress, and that’s okay,” she said. “Instead of progress, think: how am I enriching my life and the lives of others?”
When she finished speaking, she played a few more songs. After a standing ovation begging for an encore, she finished her set with a lullaby medley. It was the perfect ending to a lovely evening.
Gaelynn Lea has released two full length albums and one EP. You can purchase her CDs online. She is originally from Duluth, MN and is touring around the United States and Europe for an entire year with her husband, Paul. She took the year off from teaching, and he took a leave of absence from work to make the trip. I was inspired many times throughout this evening of music, but if I had to choose one main takeaway, it would be to live the life you were dealt, and take pride in that life. Gaelynn certainly embodies that message, and her talent is an extraordinary gift.