Gaelynn Lea, a musician and disability rights activist, will be coming to ARTS/West, 132 W. State St., Thursday, Nov. 14, at 7 p.m. The performance is a special addition to the Ohio University Performing Arts and Concert Series.
Lea performs an experimental take on classic folk music, using a looping pedal to record what she plays live and loop it back, creating a layered musical performance with her violin. She also performs vocally.
“So my set consists of a mix of, like, traditional to fiddle tunes that I kind of work together with the looping pedal in, like, kind of a new and imaginative way,” Lea said.
If You Go:
What: Gaelynn Lea
Where: ARTS/West, 132 W State St, Athens, OH 45701
When: Thursday, Nov. 14 at 7 p.m.
Her love of the violin began when an orchestra visited her school when she was in the fourth grade, Lea said.
“I knew I wanted to try it, and I got really lucky the next year when I had a chance to join, and the teacher kind of realized that I had a good ear and wanted to help me learn, even though I have a disability called brittle bone disease,” Lea said.
Because of her disability, Lea holds her violin like a cello, due to having shorter limbs. This unique style allows her to play from her electric wheelchair.
In addition to being a singer and fiddler, Lea is also a songwriter with a specific interest in lyrics.
“I love lyrics. It’s kind of maybe one of my favorite parts about music,” Lea said.
Her interest and inspiration in folk music came from listening to a lot of folk music growing up, and she developed a love for the genre.
“I think it's really neat that they can be around for hundreds of years, and yet, we're still playing them, and so I like to put my own stamp with the looping pedal on it, but I don't want to ignore that. At least the fiddle tunes are definitely traditional in origin,” Lea said.
In addition to Gaelynn’s performing career, she is also a public speaker on disability rights and has given TED talks on the subject. She is passionate about discussing and breaking down the barriers in society for those with disabilities, especially disability accessibility within the arts.
“The biggest challenge is accessibility. You know, the American Disability Act has been around for almost 30 years and, yet, many, many venues haven't even built a ramp,” Lea said.
The performance is likely to be packed, Corbin Marsh, assistant director of programming for the Performing Arts and Concert Series, said. He himself was personally in awe of Lea’s performance when he saw her previously.
“It was just a like, utterly jaw-dropping, moving experience,” Marsh said.
Some students are also very excited for the performance.
“I think it's awesome. I think it's a really good opportunity for people to see that disabled people can do anything that someone without a disability can do,” Abbie Stahl, an undecided sophomore, said.
Lea also hopes to encourage other artists to think of the accessibility of venues for their fans.
“I think other artists can still care about their fans that have disabilities,” Lea said. “And they'll consider that as part of like a checklist, you know, when they pick the venue, not just looking at the sound system, but looking at how accessible they are.”