Musician and Activist Gaelyn Lea shares inspiring message and performance with Mohonasen High School music students
Mohonasen High School welcomed Gaelyn Lea, a classically trained violinist and songwriter who gave a moving presentation to students in the school’s music department on Thursday, November 16. Gaelyn Lea is the previous winner of the NPR Tiny Desk Series and a well-known activist for people with disabilities. She spent the afternoon sharing her talents and message with students in the Mohonasen High School Auditorium.
Gaelyn Lea is known for bewitching fans with her haunting original songs and experimental takes on traditional fiddle music. Her work most recently won NPR Music’s 2016 Tiny Desk Contest, a competition drawing submissions of original songs from more than 6,000 musicians across the country.
Gaelyn also does speaking engagements as an activist for people with disabilities. Gaelynn has a congenital disability called Osteogenesis Imperfecta, or Brittle Bones Disease. In recent years, she has used her music as a platform to advocate for people with disabilities and to promote positive social change within our communities.
During today’s event at Mohonasen, she shared her message about living with a disability, finding inner freedom, and the power music has had on her life in between performances. Students also had the chance to ask her questions like what inspired her to begin playing violin and about her role as a disability advocate.
She said one of the biggest misconceptions surrounding disabilities is the language we use to describe them. “To say that someone is suffering from a disability or bound to a wheelchair, those words are so negative, and it makes it sound like I lead a terrible life,” she told students. “We need to treat everyone with respect and see the value they provide.”
Students also asked her for advice. She told one student who asked her how she handled criticism in her life was “to remember that everyone is human and is doing the best they can.” She said that patience and a better understanding of what we are all dealing with has made criticism easier to deal with.
Gaelyn also had advice for those who were dealing with invisible issues after a student asked what she would say to those with depression or anxiety. “I would never hesitate to go see a doctor if I broke my arm. I would say the same to someone who is depressed or anxious: get help. Find someone you’re comfortable talking with and ask for help. You don’t have to face these things alone.” It was a response that was met with a round of applause by the students.
Gaelyn wrapped up the presentation with her latest songs, letting her folk music fill the auditorium with inspiring lyrics and melodies, finishing a memorable performance on a truly beautiful note.