A group of British musicians have found a way of expressing themselves and in some cases, having a voice to share with others for the first time in their lives.
Thanks to Charles Hazlewood, a conductor who has led orchestras around the world for more than 20 years, the British Paraorchestra is welcoming people with a disability to make music and find a chance to shine which has often eluded them in the past.
In the words of Hazlewood himself, “The Paralympics have shifted attitudes, so we want to do the same with music and the performers have a great chance to showcase their skills” and where he admits that it can be tough for musicians to achieve mainstream popularity if they are disabled, his vision is offering an opportunity to challenge and change perceptions.
Where the Paralympic Games has proved that disabled sportsmen and women can be as impressive and inspiring as their able-bodied counterparts, the Paraorchestra is hoping to make similar strides in the musical world and because of this, I have chosen to focus on them in the first of two articles for My Autistic Life which will sum up 2012 – a year when disAbility has become cool.
Whether performing with Coldplay at the closing ceremony of the 2012 summer edition of the Paralympics in London, Great Britain or whether releasing a debut single, True Colors, has been the outstanding highlight so far, Hazlewood has had a busy year as he has established his latest project.
Inspired by his six-year-old daughter who lives with cerebral palsy, he has developed the Paraorchestra to share the gift of disability and try to show to music lovers how musicians with disabilities can be extremely talented.
He believes that “a chance to grow through the ranks has never been there before” in the industry and that “music is theraputic and it gives people a chance to have a voice”.
He says: “The Paraorchestra is good for musicians and for listeners, as it spreads how disabled people can achieve.”
By being part of a show which concluded a fantastic summer of sport in Great Britain, Hazlewood’s thoughts could not have been proved right in any greater way.
Fronted by Chris Martin, Coldplay are one of the most successful British music acts of the 21st century and by sharing the stage with them, the Paraorchestra felt pride as a collective in playing their part.
On working with the band, Hazelwood says: “Performing on the biggest stage with Coldplay was incredible for all of us.
“They worked with us and gave us a chance to incorporate our style fully into the performance.
“We performed to a billion or more people around the world. Having that chance was amazing.”
As a result of their appearance, support was given to the musicians from around the world and as a result, Hazelwood believes that countries such as Russia, China and the United States should follow the lead of the British Paraorchestra and set up national orchestras in joining them to promote their positive message.
Continuing their bid to achieve great things in the musical world, True Colors is a cover of Cyndi Lauper’s 1986 release and by including the Kaos Signing Choir, there is an aim to bring disability music an award which is highly regarded in British music.
Hazelwood, with the Paraorchestra, are looking to become the Christmas number one single in 2012.
Should they succeed or not, they have the power to change the face of disability and music and whether they can achieve this or not, the British Paraorchestra should feel equally as proud as Paralympics GB as they are striving to make a difference and make themselves known.