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evelyn glennie

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Photo: James Wilson/EG Images

Evelyn Glennie

(born July 19, 1965 in Aberdeen) is a Scottish virtuoso percussionist. She was the first full-time solo professional percussionist in 20th century western society. She is deaf.

Evelyn Glennie was brought up on a farm in Aberdeenshire, with her first language being the Doric of Scots. Her father was an accordionist in a Scottish country dance band, and the strong, indigenous musical traditions of north-east Scotland were important in the development of the young musician, whose first instruments were the mouth organ and the clarinet. Other major influences were Glenn Gould and Jacqueline du Pré. She studied at Ellon Academy and the Royal Academy of Music.

Evelyn Glennie tours extensively in the northern hemisphere, spending up to four months each year in the United States, and performs with an extraordinarily wide variety of orchestras and contemporary musicians, giving over 100 concerts a year as well as master classes and ‘music in schools’ performances. She frequently commissions percussion works from composers and performs them in her concert repertoire. To date, these original works include 53 concertos, 56 recital pieces, 18 concert pieces and 2 works for percussion ensemble.

In a live performance she can use up to approximately 60 instruments. She also plays the Great Highland Bagpipes and has her own registered tartan known as ‘The Rhythms of Evelyn Glennie’.

Evelyn Glennie has been profoundly deaf – meaning that she has some very limited hearing – since age 12. This does not inhibit her ability to perform at the international level. She is the patron of many charities supporting the deaf, young musicians, and people with a variety of disabilities.

Evelyn Glennie has won many awards for her playing, including Best Chamber Music Performance in the Grammy Awards of 1989, for her recording of Béla Bartók’s Sonata for two pianos and percussion (with David Corkhill, Evelyn Glennie, Murray Perahia & Georg Solti).

She is also featured on Icelandic singer Björk’s album Telegram, performing the duet “My Spine”.