Ashleigh began accessing specialist music tuition, supported by The Amber Trust who have received a grant from the Greater London Fund for the Blind (GLFB). The grant will enable The Amber Trust’s music tuition in three schools across London in support of children who are blind and who have learning disabilities.
Ashleigh (aged 15) has been blind since birth, is on the autistic spectrum and has hearing difficulties. At a very young age, Ashleigh developed a love of music and is able to play the piano, drums, organ, guitar and saxophone all to a very high standard.
Christine and Steve, Ashleigh’s parents, were quick to point out that she doesn’t lack confidence “The main thing holding Ashleigh back is other people’s perceptions – we tried to find a music teacher for Ashleigh but everyone seemed put off by her additional needs. When we came across The Amber Trust it was a ‘godsend’ and has helped Ashleigh come on leaps and bounds musically and socially thanks to the interaction with her tutors”.
Adam Ockelford, Ashleigh’s main music teacher and Professor of Music at Roehampton University, said “When Ashleigh first visited us she struggled in a number of areas, ranging from being unwilling to be taught to an impatience with any style of music that wasn’t her favourite of the moment”. Since receiving support from Adam, Takashi Kikuchi (a blind musician and braille music teacher) and Derek Paravicini (an acclaimed pianist who is also blind and has his own TED Talk), Ashleigh’s natural musicality has really taken off. She now loves tackling technically challenging pieces such as Rachmaninov’s Prelude in C sharp minor and is fascinated by how music is written down and how it ‘works’. Adam reported that “Ashleigh has really matured over the last year and dramatically improved her musicianship skills” to the point that she now composes her own music.
Ashleigh was very proud to discuss her latest composition Chocolate in which she performs the drums, saxophone and piano as well as having written the lyrics. Chocolate is just one piece among several others that Ashleigh has produced and plans to record on to a CD as part of her B-Tech Level 2 in music. Thanks to Ashleigh’s sessions with The Amber Trust she has decided she wants to continue studying music and become a professional musician.
Towards the end of the session Ashleigh said “I like learning braille music but my favourite bit is using the keyboard at the end of the session!” as this is when she gets to improvise and create her own pieces of music.
Ashleigh has performed at the House of Commons, the Bank of England, Cadogan Hall and recently joined the National Open Youth Orchestra – the UK’s first disabled-led orchestra. Ashleigh may well be performing at a venue near you soon so do watch out as hearing her play is highly recommended. Upcoming concerts are posted on Ashleigh’s Facebook page Ashleigh Turley’s Music.
To hear Ashleigh (and friends) playing please click here!