Good Vibrations: Deaf Musicians Justin Osmond and Evelyn Glennie

Justin Osmond book

(The book pictured above is called Hearing with My Heart. I’m not sure why the image cut off at the top!) I’m listening right now to an inspiring interview with Justin Osmond, on a streaming radio channel, which is amazing. He was born with a profound hearing loss and grew up in a very musical family. His parents, because of their extended family’s involvement in music, searched for ways to help him to learn to hear, speak, and make music. His mother would wake up the children in his family at 5:30 am, and after a family study time, she worked with him for 30 minutes on intense speech therapy. He learned to play violin, viola, and drums through vibration.

This was fascinating to me in particularly because I’m listening, as I exercise and do housework at home, to The Power of Music. The first chapter shares the story of Evelyn Glennie, a famous full-time solo percussionist who is deaf. She performs solo as well as with orchestras internationally. How? She takes her shoes off and feels the vibrations. The purpose of her TED talk (also amazing!) is  to teach people how to listen. In fact, she begins her talk saying she feels this is her purpose in life: to teach the world to listen.

So both of these deaf people learned musical instruments through vibration. WOW! So much to explore in this concept! Both Justin in his radio interview and Evelyn in her videotaped talk explain how they learned to differentiate vibrations in order to differentiate pitches. Incredible.

Justin Osmond talks about the gift his mother gave him by the hours spent helping him as well as the gift his grandmother gave him. What did his grandmother do? She had two sons who were hearing impaired, and so her musical family (9 children, The Osmonds, which included Donny and Marie Osmond) started performing in small gigs at places like the local fair, in order to raise money for their brothers’ hearing aids! That effort grew into a charitable organization they named The Osmond Foundation which in turn became the Children’s Miracle Network!

Justin learned for himself the joy of helping another person to hear when he wanted to raise money for a friend whose family couldn’t afford to give him a hearing aid. He did so, and for the first time in his 14-year old life, his friend heard his mother tell him “I love you.”

We had a concert (recital) series at our elementary school two years ago called “Instruments for Good,” in which local young performers came and performed on the first Friday of every month for students. Those young performers and these two deaf musicians remind me of the power of music, service, and good help others access beauty in their lives.

I love it!