Harpist with a Service Dog: an Interview with WOSU

Posted In: Coffee Break

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    hannah-anderson on #189849

    Hi Everyone,

    A few months ago I had the chance to sit down and talk with Classical 101 WOSU about my experience as a musician with a disability and a service dog. I thought you all might enjoy reading the article and listening to the interview, so here is the link: http://radio.wosu.org/post/dog-day-being-musician-service-dog#stream/0

    I’d be honored if you give it a listen and some feedback!

    Sylvia on #189857

    Thank you for posting.
    1. I was kind of amazed that someone so young would have Meniere’s disese. I read that there is no known cause. Do you also have tinnitus?

    2. It sounded like you move the harp yourself. How do you move your harp if you have difficulty walking?

    3. Do you ever have vertigo episodes while playing? If so, what do you do? You’re already sitting down. Do you lie down by the harp? Onstage during a concert?

    4. I wasn’t clear what happened to Timmy when he hears music he doesn’t like…like the Debussy. Is he taken out where his growls and howls won’t be heard? In that case, it would seem that he couldn’t be backstage, either, because he could still hear it….and the audience would hear his reaction. So does someone remove him from the area during the offending piece of music?

    hannah-anderson on #189901


    Thanks for listening! Let me try to answer your questions 🙂

    1. It is extremely rare for someone my age to develop Meniere’s Disease. There is no known cause and some treatments but no cures. I do not have tinnitus, however, I do have profound hearing loss. Obviously, needing assistance to hear has seriously impacted my life as a musician as well, although that wasn’t the focus of this interview.

    2. I usually move my harp myself. I’ve found that at most times just having the harp/dolly to hold on to is enough support for me. If I’m in an episode or having a bad day, I don’t trust myself as much and I will ask for help.

    3. I do have episodes while playing. It is terrifying, especially when in a solo performance and there are not many options for me. I will usually keep playing… I have learned how to play without visual cues – I memorize everything and I am able to locate all of the strings without looking directly at the harp – so that I can focus on on particular point and try to minimize the effects of the vertigo episode. I am already sitting down, so I don’t have to worry about falling over. My two main goals when I have episode during a performance are to a) keep playing and keep playing well, and b) hopefully not become ill to my stomach (I have nausea that is almost constant and the vomiting is fairly well controlled by medication but during acute episodes I never know for sure).

    4. I can predict what music Timmy will dislike… in that case, I make sure he’s out of earshot for that piece. He is almost always fine with orchestral music and with band pieces. In the case of the Debussy piece in my harp ensemble, he started being disruptive during the rehearsal, not during the performance. Actually having to remove him from the stage has never happened. I am extremely sensitive to that and take every precaution to ensure that he does not distract during performances.

    Sylvia on #189902

    Thank you for your response.
    My brother has Meniere’s and wears hearing aids, so hopefully your hearing loss is similar and can be helped.
    I’m wondering if you are able to drive.

    Keep us informed of how your harp life progresses.

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