Yet another TED speaker is set to play a part in the Paralympics, now happening in London. At the Closing Ceremony on Sunday, Charles Hazlewood will be conducting the British Paraorchestra – a 17-person ensemble composed entirely of disabled musicians. The orchestra has grown rapidly since its four-member debut at TEDxBrussels in November 2011, above.
From the start, Hazlewood’s holy grail has been the Paralympics Closing Ceremony. Inspired by the way that the Paralympic Games have changed perceptions of disability and athletics, he was eager to do the same for music. With the Paralympics bringing a rare moment of worldwide attention to the disabled community, Hazlewood saw a unique opportunity. Through Sunday’s performance and a documentary to air on Britain’s Channel 4 (read about it in The Guardian), he hopes to take major steps toward the ultimate goal – integration of world-class disabled musicians into orchestras everywhere.
But on the way to that ultimate goal, the more voice given to talented, disabled musicians, the better.
“We’re going to call it the British Paraorchestra,” said Hazlewood at TEDxBrussels, “because with the world’s eyes on London next year, and particularly on the Paralympics, we want to throw down the gauntlet to every single other country that is represented there, to say to them, ‘Here’s our paraorchestra. Where’s yours?’”
When the youngest of his children was born with cerebral palsy, Hazelwood’s eyes were opened to the disabled community. He began to realize that, in a long career with professional orchestras, he had encountered only a handful of disabled musicians. From there, he envisioned the paraorchestra. But the process was difficult, and only months before the orchestra’s debut at TEDxBrussels, Hazlewood was onstage at TEDGlobal 2011, calling the idea “a fairly impossible and implausible dream still.”
His dream is now a reality.
Sunday evening in London, the Games will come to a close, the Paralympic Flag will be handed on, and Hazlewood and the British Paraorchestra will play to an expected audience of half a billion.