The OHMI Trust - removing barriers to participation in the world of music

Posted on Thursday 25th June, 2015

When EDRIC ran its crowdfunding campaign last year, we came across a really interesting UK charity that specialises in encouraging people with limb difference to play musical instruments and others to design or adapt them.  If you want to find out more, read on.

OHMI Trust

Pronounced 'oh-me', this UK-based organisation is pioneering the use and development of one handed instruments to enable people to play at concert standard.

The organisation was founded by Dr.  Stephen Hetherington, who began his career as an orchestral musician.  It was his own hemiplegic daughter, Amy, who alerted him to the lack of instruments available to disabled musicians.
OHMI has launched a competition to encourage designers to develop ways around the usual restrictions of having to play an instrument using both hands.

The charity is also about to launch a teaching programme in the UK which will initially be piloted in the West Midlands before being spread to other areas.

OHMI enjoys some extremely high level support among the musical world's most high profile figures: it recently welcomed percussionist, Dame Evelyn Glennie, and esteemed saxophonist, John Harle, who will join virtuoso trumpeter Alison Balsom on OHMI's panel of patrons.

[IMAGE:blog/Patrons.001.jpg{OHMI patrons, John Harle, Alison Balsom and Dame Evelyn Glennie - copyright Nobby Clark and Caroline Purday {image centre]

"OHMI are proving that disability may be no barrier to music-making at the highest level.  This will benefit millions." Dame Evelyn Glennie.

Saxophonist John Harle added:

"Thanks to OHMI, a bright light now shines on a hge problem few people notice.  They are leading the way towards full inclusion for people with disabilities."

Alison Balsom said:

"OHMI's work is brilliant and essential.  They have my whole hearted support"

Nurturing Innovation

In response to the absence of orchestral instruments that could be played without two fully functioning hands and arms, OHMI launched its first annual competition three years ago.

Entrants from across the world are challenged to develop musical instruments that can be played without the use of one hand and arm.  It can be an adaptation of an existing instrument or an entirely new design, but must be capable of emulating a traditional instrument.

The challenge is open to everyone - technologists, inventors, instrument makers or students.
In the first two years OHMI received some fabulous designs across all categories, opening up new realms of achievement and possibility for disabled musicians.  Among those who benefit are amputees, stroke survivors and people with arthritis.

Past winners have included:

  • A one-handed flute by Martin Visser: designed for a young musician who was brain damaged after an accident; the adapted flute means she can now play to her previous standard, despite having lost the use of one side of her body. 
  • A toggle-key saxophone by Jeff Stelling and David Nabb: the saxophone was adapted for one-handed playing, reintroducing a stroke survivor to musical life. 
  • A Dolmetsch one-handed recorder now available in the UK via a number of charitable loan schemes, including HemiHelp and Reach. 

Trumpet that can be played one handed

The competition is divided into three categories:

  • Playable - for instruments capable of performance without further development.  Adaptations must have all the capabilities of the original instrument.  Where an entry uses new technology, perhaps electronics, it must closely copy the musical characteristics of the instrument it is emulating. 
  • Concept - for the most technically promising solutions to the challenge.  Entries may be in any form: paper, video, drawings etc, just as long as they explain and describe the concept in detail to the competition judges.  Several past entries have been projects in development: playable, but not yet to the high standard required. 
  • Enabling - for apparatus (straps, stands, harnesses etc) that make a traditional instrument accessible for one-handed playing. 

One-handed flute

More information can be found at OHMI's website but the deadline for this year's competition is almost upon us - entries close on Tuesday June 30, email rachel@ohmi.org.uk with your design.

In common with EDRIC, OHMI enjoys the support of the one handed pianist, Nicholas McCarthy, who is one of the organisations ambassadors, alongside French horn soloist Felix Klieser who plays the instrument with his feet.

OHMI will be present at a couple of events in the UK over the coming month: Fast Forward Festival at Colston Hall in Bristol on 2-3rd July 2015 and The 'Breaking the Bubble' Conference at Rich Mix in London on July 16th 2015.

Tags: music limb difference OHMI Nicholas McCarthy innovation instruments concert disability Evelyn Glennie Alison Balsom John Harle Article


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