THE BLOG

Music Is For Everyone

01/05/2015 18:25 BST | Updated 01/05/2016 10:12 BST

As a 22-year-old musician, my story up to this point is pretty typical amongst my contemporaries in the classical music world. Aged seven, I began piano lessons with Mrs Davies, who lived locally. Two years later, I picked up the clarinet with Miss Clarke, and joined my local youth orchestra. Fast forward a few years to the age of 14, and I had passed grade 8 on both instruments. At this point, my parents - neither of them musicians, both equally perplexed as to why their youngest son preferred listening to Mozart over the Kaiser Chiefs - sent me to Manchester to study at the world-famous Chetham's School of Music.

Over the next four years, I had a brilliant time, quite frankly, surrounded by like-minded friends and totally immersed in the subject I loved most. My performing took me all the way to the stage of the Royal Albert Hall with the National Youth Orchestra (fulfilling a childhood dream) and I began to take composition more seriously too. That seriously, in fact, to enrol at the Royal Academy of Music in September 2010 as a first study composer. Nowadays, post-music degree, I enjoy a varied freelance career as a composer and clarinettist.

And yet, there is perhaps just one thing that sets my story apart from those belonging to most of my peers. Since birth, I have had a visual and hearing impairment. My poor eyesight is caused by a condition called nystagmus, and my hearing loss was caused by a viral infection when I was a few months old. But I hope that the outline of my career to date, as described above, goes some way in proving that my disabilities haven't held back my progress in music, or life, for that matter.

That doesn't mean I see myself as an 'inspiration' to others. When I hear someone use that term to describe me, I cringe a little. After all, there are many people I know who have surpassed far greater challenges than the ones I have faced. Yes, I may have been dealt a slightly shoddy hand with regards to my sight and hearing difficulties, but in another sense I have been blessed with extraordinarily good fortune. You see, without my family, friends, teachers and various mentors I have had beside me, I wouldn't be where I am today.

To be more specific, the one thing all these people share in common is their attitude. From as young as I can remember, my parents reminded me that just because I was the only boy in the class who wore hearing aids, this didn't mean I wouldn't be able to do the same things as everyone else. The practical limitations posed by my impairments were always sidestepped with careful planning and a little common sense. For instance, detailed sheet music in small print was 'blown up' onto A3 sheets to make it easier to read, and in orchestral rehearsals a radio aid would be placed by the feet of the conductor so I could hear verbal instructions clearly. Some of my music teachers placed an emphasis on certain ways of performing which would work to my advantage, such as memorising pieces to avoid reading off the page, or relying less on my ears and more on the tactile quality of a sound vibration through my fingers or mouthpiece. With all of these coping mechanisms in place, not once did someone close to me question whether I should 'do' music as a career - as soon as it became clear I wanted to devote the rest of my life to it, I had their unequivocal support, for which I'll always be grateful.

But not everyone is so fortunate. One of my missions in life is to help ensure that we have a society in which every child, irrelevant of their disability, has the best possible chance to succeed in music. To do this, we need to be as visible as possible, showing children and their parents and teachers that a disability should not bar a child from accessing music lessons, which I believe to be basic right. My work with the British Paraorchestra - a group of professional disabled musicians, all at the top of their game - will undoubtedly form an important part of carrying out this task. This summer, they will premiere a new piece of mine called Towards Harmony, which will mark the first time the Paraorchestra has performed with a professional symphony orchestra, in the shape of the Southbank Sinfonia. The performance in Bristol on July 3 will mark an important milestone in the life of this amazing group and my own career, and I sincerely hope there are many more to come.

Lloyd Coleman is part of BBC Radio 3's Young Artists Day, Monday 4 May (6.30-00.30). Lloyd will appear in a special edition of Afternoon On 3 (14.00-16.30). Young Artists Day is part of Get Creative - a year-long celebration of British arts, culture and creativity, launched by Director General of the BBC, Tony Hall, in February 2015 - in partnership with cultural movement What Next? as well as a huge range of arts, cultural and voluntary organisations across the UK.