Folk singer, musician, and disability rights advocate Gaelynn Lea will perform virtually in an event for the Austin College community on November 11 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Students and faculty are invited to gather in Wynne Chapel to watch the presentation together, with refreshments and drinks available. The event is also livestreamed so may be viewed elsewhere. A question-and-answer session will follow her presentation. Reservations are required for the Wynne Chapel or individually livestreamed events.
As a child, Lea fell in love with orchestral music, particularly the cello. She is too small to play the cello so her teacher helped her to play the violin but holding it more like a cello. She also plays fiddle music.
She won NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Contest in 2016, and that set her onto the road. She has toured in 45 states and nine countries, playing her mix of original songs and traditional fiddle tunes. She has appeared in several major music festivals. Her husband is her tour manager.
In addition to performing and recording, Lea frequently does speaking engagements about disability rights, finding inner freedom, and accessibility in the arts. She uses her music as a platform to advocate for disabled people and to promote positive social change. In recent years, she has shared her perspective on NPR, various other radio programs, and two widely viewed TEDx Talks. Visit Lea’s website.
She is the vice president of a change-making group called RAMPD – Recording Artists and Music Professionals with Disabilities. The group’s mission is to serve as a resource for disabled recording artists, music professionals, and their allies by amplifying disability culture, promoting inclusion, and advocating for accessibility in the music industry.
Lea was born with a genetic condition called Osteogenesis Imperfecta, commonly known as Brittle Bones Disease, which causes complications in the development of bones. She opted against surgery on her arms in case she no longer would be able to play her instrument. She does not regret her decision, she tells her audiences.
The Austin College event is sponsored by Religious Life, Campus Activities Board (CAB), Institutional Marketing and Communications, and the new student organization CHAMPS (Cultivating, Helpful, Aware, and Mindful People of Service).
Austin College, a private national liberal arts college located north of Dallas in Sherman, Texas, has earned a reputation for excellence in academic preparation, global awareness, pre-professional foundations, leadership development, committed faculty, and hands-on, adventurous learning opportunities. One of 40 schools profiled in Loren Pope’s influential book Colleges That Change Lives, Austin College boasts a welcoming community that embraces diversity and individuality, with more than 50 percent of students identifying as persons of color. The residential student body of approximately 1,300 students and an expert faculty of more than 100 educators allow a 12:1 student-faculty ratio and personalized attention. Related by covenant to the Presbyterian Church (USA), Austin College cultivates an inclusive atmosphere that supports students’ faith journeys regardless of religious tradition. The College, founded in 1849, is the oldest institution of higher education in Texas operating under its original name and charter.