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Release: Immediate

Deaf percussionist Evelyn Glennie collaborates with Pro Musica Nipponia at UI

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Japan's traditional-instrument orchestra, Pro Musica Nipponia, will be joined by superstar Scottish percussionist Evelyn Glennie in a musical meeting of East and West at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 16 in Hancher Auditorium on the University of Iowa campus. The concert will be presented in conjunction with the Days of Percussion, hosted by the UI School of Music.

Glennie has achieved international fame both because she is a dramatic percussion virtuoso -- proclaimed the "First Lady" of solo percussion -- and because she is deaf. She literally sees and feels the music, responding to conductors and other musicians by sight, while feeling the vibrations of the music. Glennie will offer a percussion master class -- open for public observation, free of charge, at 1 p.m. the day of the concert in the Opera Rehearsal Room in the Voxman Music Building.

The centerpiece of the concert will be "Requiem 99," a concerto for marimba and Japanese traditional instruments by Minoru Miki, founder and director of Pro Musical Nipponia. Miki will personally introduce the work.

Also on the program will be another marimba concerto and performances by Pro Musica Nipponia of both traditional and contemporary works for Japanese traditional instruments.

Pro Musica Nipponia was formed in 1964 to perform both classical and modern music for traditional stringed instruments including the koto, the shamisen and the biwa; wind instruments including the shakuhachi, shinobue and nokan; and percussion instruments including the odaiko, shimedaiko and kotsuzumi.

Miki has long pursued his interest in cross-cultural collaborations. In 1981 he composed the "Symphony for Two Worlds," which Pro Musica Nipponia performed with the Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig, under the direction of Kurt Masur. Masur also directed the American premiere of the work in 1994 with the New York Philharmonic.

That performance was followed by a national tour, supported by the Japan Foundation, which included a performance in Hancher featuring a commissioned work by Miki.

Glennie was trained at the Royal Academy of Music in London, where she received the school's highest honor. Although her deafness attracted publicity, her career quickly proved that she was more than a novelty. In Europe she almost single-handedly popularized percussion music and established the timpani and other percussion as solo-concert instruments.

She has performed with leading orchestras worldwide, has toured performing solo and chamber music concerts, and has appeared as a host and performer on television and radio broadcasts worldwide. Several of her recordings on the RCA Red Seal label have become bestsellers. She was bestowed as Officer of the British Empire in 1993.

Glennie began to lose her hearing when she was eight years old. "I suffered from sore ears," she told the Detroit News. "The wind particularly bothered my ears. Gradually I began to realize that I was having to pay more attention; I was not catching everything people said to me and popping the TV up louder. My headmistress at the elementary school spoke to my parents about this, and we went to an audiologist, and in fact things weren't what they should have been.

"My hearing kept narrowing, but I was lucky because I was still a child. Other people assume you'll have problems -- and sometimes even create them. But a child who falls off a bicycle just picks himself up and goes on to the next thing."

The hearing loss became profound, but stabilized by the age of 12. "My family is unfussy and down to earth, and they do not make an issue out of anything," she said. "We just got on with it. The closest school for the deaf was away in Aberdeen, and there was simply no question of my going away to someplace like that. I had my teen-age years to adapt to the situation and build my confidence."

Glennie gave up the clarinet, but at a school assembly she discovered percussion, which suited the heightening sensitivity of her other senses. While no one ever discouraged her musical interests, she at first did not consider a musical career.

The discouragement came later, with her choice of a solo career on an instrument for which there was no precedent. "I spent three years at the Royal Academy of Music in London, and I played in the orchestra, which was a requirement, but by the time I was 15, I had decided that I wanted to be a musician if I could be a soloist, but if I couldn't do that, I would go on to something else. This was a very different idea at the time, and it did create some resistance."

After researching the existing literature for percussion, she made her solo debut in 1986 at Wigmore Hall in London. Once the media began spreading the word of her unusual talents, composers began creating new pieces specifically for her. She now presents more than 100 concerts each season.

Glennie is an active advocate for the deaf, and her own career has shattered many prejudices. "People like to imagine that deafness is about silence and music is about sound," she said. "But it isn't that way at all. Deaf people can experience music as a visual and a physical sensation, and there are many aspects of music that aren't just sound. Trying to bring all of this together is important to me; that's what I want to do."

She has traveled the world acquiring new percussion instruments, and experimenting with technique. "And I have my husband to tell me what it sounds like after I have struck it," she observed. But her interests are not confined to percussion. She now hopes to learn that most Scottish of all instruments -- the bagpipe.

Corporate sponsors of Pro Musica Nipponia with Evelyn Glennie are Prairie Lights and the Iowa City Coffee Company through the University of Iowa Foundation.

Tickets for the Feb. 16 concert are $18, $16 and $14. UI students and senior citizens qualify for a 20-percent discount, with Zone 3 tickets available to UI students for $10. Tickets for audience members 17 and younger are half price.

Hancher box office hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and 1-3 p.m. Sunday. From the local calling area or outside Iowa, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance within Iowa and western Illinois is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction.

People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319) 335-1158. This number will be answered by box office personnel prepared to offer assistance with handicapped parking, wheelchair access and seating, hearing augmentation and other services. The line is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

For additional information about the Days of Percussion, contact Dan Moore at the UI School of Music, 319-335-1632

For information on UI arts events, visit on the World Wide Web. Visit Evelyn Glennie's homepage at