Epilepsy - Enriching Lives Through Music
My name’s Thea Gayle1 and I’m a musician based in London2, UK3. I’ve been playing the piano (and oboe) for as long as I can remember. I studied at King’s College London4 and The Royal Academy of Music5 and I now make my living teaching others (and performing) around London, on my little mission to help other adventurers into the world of music to find their own satisfaction and enjoyment in music.
Favourite food: If I could only ever eat one food again it would be Julie mangoes6
First piano memory: I’d seen my mother and older sibling perform what I thought was magic, and for a while I played just pretending to read the music!
For about a year now I have been working with a pupil with epilepsy - and Torie13 has been great fun to teach! I always look forward to our lessons where I know a laugh or two awaits – as well a good discussion on something pressing on one or both of us that week.
Through working with Torie I have become much more aware of how epilepsy (seizures and drugs) can affect someone’s memory and day-to-day tasks; including when practicing and improving technique whilst learning the piano. When teaching anyone to play the piano, it’s necessary to be patient, understanding and willing to adapt the lesson plans as you go -depending on your student’s progress.
Torie makes understanding her needs straightforward for me, as she is very open and tells me what she often struggles with or fears, and I make sure to listen so that she doesn’t have to repeat herself. Memory issues16 are a big thing for Torie, so we have found a few things that help:
· We’ll go over points as many times as she needs to in order to memorise them;
· If she asks, I send her quick video reminders of bits that we played during the lesson;
· I write down the most important piano practice notes on flashcards for her which are left near her piano; that way there’s no need for her to rely solely on her memory. She tends to do the writing and comes up with far more entertaining mnemonics17 to remember things by than me!
Playing & Practicing for Enjoyment
Torie’s face will usually tell me the story of how much weekly practice has been done when I ask! Sometimes she’ll say: ‘Not as much as I should have…!’ with a look of worry and guilt on her face. What this often means is that rather than her tacking her trickier grading pieces, she may have been spending time playing her favourite film, popular music scores, or something else that she can already play very well. Contrary to popular belief, to me this seems like a much more realistic and healthy approach to learning the piano; to not always be focused on the next grade or technical goal, but to play for enjoyment instead.
Mental Health: Relaxation, Enjoyment and Stress Relief
Playing the piano can bring relaxation, enjoyment and help with stress relief for lots of people; and this doesn’t have to be the bonus but instead can be the goal. Knowing that Torie uses music like this, is a great source of happiness for me as her teacher. I help her build her confidence in playing and answer her questions; reinforcing how much she’s achieved; ignoring the pressure-filled societal standards of what is “expected” and instead focusing on Torie as an individual. Experiencing the mental health benefits of creating music is arguably far more important than passing grades, and those benefits are accessible to everyone.
The Best Parts
The best parts about teaching Torie piano are the texts that I receive from her informing me of a late-night practice session that’s energized her, a video she sends me of a musician who’s inspired her or an impassioned question on a point about music theory. This reminds me that in some way, I’m helping someone to use music to enrich their lives in a meaningful and sustainable way.
1. Thea Gayle: http://theagayle.co.uk/about/
2. Visit London: https://www.visitlondon.com/
3. Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/place/United-Kingdom
4. Kings College London: https://www.kcl.ac.uk/
5. The Royal Academy of Music: https://www.ram.ac.uk/
6. Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julie_(mango)
9. Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eug%C3%A8ne_Bozza
10. YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GEhZzHQl8V0
11. Philharmonia Orchestra: https://www.philharmonia.co.uk/explore/instruments/oboe
12. YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BV7RkEL6oRc
13. Epilepsy Sparks: https://www.epilepsysparks.com/torie-robinson
14. Lorenzo Spoleti, Unsplash: https://unsplash.com/photos/MlhJNEUQpBs
15. Unsplash: https://unsplash.com/photos/MlhJNEUQpBs
16. Epilepsy Society: https://www.epilepsysociety.org.uk/how-epilepsy-can-affect-memory#.Xb8iSpr7TIU
Your Dictionary: https://examples.yourdictionary.com/examples-of-mnemonics.html