2016 NPR Popular Music Series Winner ‘Tiny Desk Contest’ Performs at FAU – UNIVERSITY PRESS

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Gaelynn Lea also spoke about living with brittle bone disease and making art more accessible.

Gaelynn Lea, winner of the 2016 Tiny Desk NPR competition, performed at FAU last week. Photo by Ariana Anderson

Last week, the professional violinist and NPR second small office contest winner Gaelynn Lea organized an intimate concert in the Boca library in front of about 40 students. Lea followed her performance with an informative talk about being a Handicapped musician.

In addition to winning Tiny Desk Concert, a music competition hosted by NPR that drew more than 6,000 submissions, Lea is a performer, speaker, teacher and activist – and lives with osteogenesis imperfecta (OI), a disease that can cause more than 100 bone fractures in a lifetime. It is also called brittle bone disease. She has given a variety of performances and speeches in 47 states and seven countries on living with OI, making art more accessible, and using art as activism.

“[Having a disability] is not for or against, but an identity, ”she said.

Lea’s condition is genetic; her arms and legs are bent and about the size of her violin which she plays like a cello in her wheelchair.

His speech at FAU focused on advocating for the music industry to be more accessible and that “too often” people with disabilities are left out of the mix. She said concert halls are generally not “up to date” in terms of accessibility, a problem that has prevailed for a long time. Due to the lack of accommodations like parking, convenient seating and wheelchair-friendly toilets, Salon reported that concert halls have a long way to go. Lea said she also has difficulty going up and down some scenes.

FAU Tiny Desk Concert fans were especially looking forward to last Tuesday’s concert and lecture.

“I was so excited that I skipped water polo practice to attend the event,” said Louis Giroire, junior major in biology.

Lea then opened up for questions, where she touched on everything from the “surreal” feeling of winning the NPR contest to her biggest fear.: diagnostic error.

Because of the potentially negative connotations surrounding the world of people with disabilities, Lea said, she hopes people will learn valuable lessons from her performances and lectures.

“Not everything is perfect in life,” she said after her performance, “but there is always beauty in the world.”

Lea said she plans to return to FAU next January to perform again.

Ariana Anderson is a University Press collaborator. For more information on this story or others, send an email [email protected]

Kristen Grau is the editor-in-chief of University Press. For more information on this story or others, send an email [email protected] or tweet her @_kristengrau.


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