The author sets the tone of the story in a crowded railway station during the peak hour. A seventeen-year-old, small and slender girl feels the vibrations of the train coming to her platform. She is nervous and excited at the same time because she is going to the Royal Academy of Music in London for her first-day class. It is very intimidating for any teenager in this situation, but she also has a greater problem, that she is impaired of hearing. She cannot hear any sounds she can only feel the vibrations.
Evelyn's hearing loss had started when she was young. It had gradually deteriorated as she aged. Her mother, Isabel Glennie, recalls that she called her daughter and she did not respond. That is when she realized that Evelyn had a problem with hearing. Evelyn was eight years old when this incident happened. The strong-willed Evelyn tried to hide it from her teachers and friends for another three years. When she was eleven, she started losing marks because of this problem and her headmistress forced her parents to take her to a doctor. It was discovered that her problem was due to a gradual nerve damage. She was advised to fit hearing aids in her ears and that she had to be sent to a special school for deaf children. The whole situation was very shocking and sorrowful for Evelyn.
Though things looked difficult and dark for Evelyn, she did not give up. She wanted to live like a normal person. She was interested in music, and she wanted to follow her dreams. She saw some girl playing an instrument called xylophone (a musical instrument played by striking a row of wooden bars), and she wanted to learn it.
Her teachers discouraged her because she cannot hear what she is playing nor what she is taught. But a percussion (musical instrument which can be played by striking with hands or sticks) instrument player named Ron Forbes encouraged her. He saw the interest and talent that Evelyn had. He advised her to listen through her body parts, and not through ears. He started teaching her by tuning two drums for different notes. She started "feeling" the music. She felt the higher drum from her waist up and the lower drum from her waist down. Her mind and body now received the sounds and vibrations. She worked hard with nothing but determination to reach where she is today.
Evelyn worked hard with determination. She travelled around the UK doing concerts. She was part of an orchestra that had young musicians like herself. She decided that she was going to take up music in her life as her career. She performed to show her suitability in playing percussion, to the Royal Academy of Music. She scored the highest marks ever scored by anybody who had auditioned there. From doing group performances, she improved to perform solo shows by herself. She started receiving many awards by the end of her three-year course of music study.
Evelyn received many awards for her musical talents. But she chose to remain humble. She did not think of it as any grand/enormous victory. She believed only in hard work. She believed if we know where we want to go and work towards it, we can reach our goals. With her firm belief, she reached great heights and went ahead to become a highly demanded multi-percussionist. Multi-percussionist is someone who can play many percussion instruments. Evelyn acquired complete knowledge (mastered) in playing a lot of percussion instruments. Since her performances were desired by people all over the world, she was always busy with her international travel and performances.
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Percussion instruments
Evelyn operates so easily and simply without any efforts - it was fascinating to watch. During the two-hour discussion, she did not seem to miss a single word. She watches the face, especially the eyes of the people to whom she speaks - to get the full meaning of what they say. Just seeing the lips is not enough for her. She jokes that men with bushy beards that cover their face give her trouble because she wouldn't be able to see most of the face, hidden behind the beard. She speaks perfect Scottish accentuated with the characteristic rising and falling tone. She says her speech is clear because she could hear and learn the language until she was eleven years old. Over and above, she has managed to learn French and has acquired complete knowledge in basic Japanese language.
Evelyn explains how music flows through all parts of her body. She says it pricks slightly in her skin, cheekbones and even in her hair. She feels the sounds passing from the stick of the xylophone to her fingers when she plays it. When she leans against the drums, she feels the echoes flowing through her body. When she walks on a wooden platform, she removes her shoes and walks bare feet, to experience the vibrations that pass through her legs. It may be noted that xylophone also resembles a wooden platform; therefore, she might have wanted to experience similar sounds to that of her favourite instrument.
Evelyn's audiences always enjoy her performances; they derive pleasure and satisfaction. She received the honourable Soloist of the Year Award from the Royal Philharmonic Society in 1991. Senior percussionist James Blades has complimented her saying that God may have deprived her of hearing, but he has given her something else unique and remarkable. Others can only hear, but she can "feel" music much better. He says that is the reason for Evelyn's beautiful music performance.
Evelyn accepts the fact that she is a workaholic - someone who compulsively works excessively hard and long hours. She says she works harder than classical musicians. She also gives free performances in prisons and hospitals, apart from her routine concerts. She also takes classes and gives importance to young musicians. Ann Richlin of the Beethoven Fund for Deaf Children remarks that Evelyn is a shining inspiration for deaf children. She has motivated them to feel that they can go wherever they want and achieve whatever they like.
Evelyn has completely achieved her goals quite early in her life. It usually takes double the years for most people to achieve what she has done. Percussion instruments were generally used in the back of the orchestra, but she proved it is as important as other instruments and brought it to the front. She has clearly shown that percussion can create strong influence on emotions. She has created an urge to win for people with physical challenges. She motivates that if she can do it, anyone can do it. Lastly, apart from all that she has done, she has given tremendous happiness to millions of people.