*Blogger’s Note- Today’s post comes from my writing archives. The following first appeared in August 2011 on the now defunct Yahoo! Voices website. At the time my interview subject Hamid Ala gained acceptance to Cal State Long Beach Bob Cole Conservatory of Music. He graduated from the school this past spring.
Regarding the post you will see the unique subject matter drawing similarities between two seemingly unconnected subject matters, cerebral palsy and classical music, creates a fun and memorable read. Enjoy!
When you think about classical music, you most likely don’t think about cerebral palsy but singer Hamid Ala will get you to see the correlation. Ala who recently gained acceptance into Cal State Long Beach Bob Cole Conservatory of Music lives with cerebral palsy, a neurological disability which affects muscle coordination and motor skills. Born in London, England Ala found a passion for classical music before moving to the United States at 12 years old. Through Hamid Ala’s story you will discover similarities between classical music and cerebral palsy.
Similarity #1- Patience
Hamid Ala when asked about how his cerebral palsy helped shape him said “Cerebral palsy for me teaches you about discipline, taking your time and learning your craft.” Ala discussed how today’s society focuses a lot on instant gratification, where everyone wants to become the next reality show star or Youtube sensation. Both cerebral palsy and classical music require patience. This patience fosters a deeper appreciation for life.
The appreciation for life evolves from the difficulty involved with both cerebral palsy and singing classical music. Ala notes sometimes he needs assistance putting on his jacket or descending stairs. When another individual helps him Ala fills with gratitude.
Learning classical music involves understanding music’s many different layers, for instance the difference between soprano and tenor singing voices. Some pieces feature other languages so you need to become bilingual. By studying classical music’s complexity you value the end product so much more.
Similarity #2- Misconceptions
If somebody said “classical music” or “disability” to you, you likely conjure up certain perceptions. Sadly, sometimes these perceptions contain misconceptions and misconceptions prove dangerous. Misconceptions can create barriers preventing you from enjoying new experiences. Ala eagerly pointed out “Classical music is for everyone. People think you have to be rich or look a certain way but people need to understand classical music is for everyone.” At the very least Ala urges you to give classical music a chance.
Drawing a parallel between the misconceptions surrounding classical music and individuals with disabilities Hamid Ala commented “At least give it (classical music) a try. Just like a person with a disability, you might not understand them but at least give a try to see who they are.” Professor Hedley Nosworthy author of Singing: The Truth be Told gave Ala a chance by teaching him to sing classical music when others refused to do so. As a result both individuals enjoyed a rewarding experience.
Personally for Ala his journey into classical music serves as an equalizer, explaining singing allows others to finally see past his cerebral palsy. “People with disabilities want to be seen as human beings, as individuals and not as having cerebral palsy or other disabilities. We want to be seen as equals and music has done that for me.”
*Final note- If you enjoyed the above, read my second interview with Ala published at The Mobility Resource, “”Discovering Singing as a Mode for Expression.”