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Sarah Fisher - a musician with a disability

Posted on 9 March 2017

Sarah Fisher is a multi-instrumental musician with a disability. She has cerebral palsy and whilst studying for her music degree she developed an aggressive involuntary movement in her arm. Playing the piano and percussion has helped to control it. In fact, when she plays you wouldn’t even be aware of her condition.

She gained a first class degree in Community Music at Sage Gateshead and has gone on to inspire young people with her infectious love for music and unique teaching style. She is so passionate about music and how her disability has shaped her as a musician that she now talks about it at conferences up and down the country.

Sarah is also incredibly funny. Her humour, combined with her musical talent has led to Sarah landing her own gig at Sage Gateshead later this month. She has been in residence at the music centre for the last few months working on a new showcase for some brand new material she has written, supported by Unlimited (celebrating the work of disabled artists).

‘Twitch’ – An Evening with Sarah Fisher and Friends takes place in Sage Two on Wednesday March 15 at 8pm. She will be joined by friends and special guests combining music, disability and humour.

Sarah, 23, who is originally from Bedfordshire but moved to the region to study at Sage Gateshead (and has stayed ever since), said: “Music has been part of my physiotherapy since I was five. My dissertation was on my disability and how it has become part of my development as a musician and teacher.

“While I was studying for my degree I started taking medication to reduce the stiffness caused by Cerebral Palsy. It worked but my left arm started to make involuntary movements. They were small at first but soon I couldn’t control my arm. It was really tough and I was undergoing test after test whilst trying to study. The only time it stopped was when I was playing music. It taught me that there could be a way of controlling it in my everyday life.

“The first time I spoke about my disability and experiences in front of an audience was during my final year event and the response was amazing. People said I should do it again. I tied in my music, disability and humour. Humour has always been a coping mechanism for me. You can have a disability and laugh! It’s not a bad thing. I want everyone who comes along to the show in March to have a laugh and enjoy the music.”

Sarah works with student ensembles and visiting students at Sage Gateshead. She uses body and hand gestures to teach as she sometimes struggles with her speech.

“At first it is challenging but music is a universal language,” Sarah said.
“My disability plays a big part in the kind of musician I am today because I adapt how I play and teach. I always describe myself as a musician with a disability.”

Sarah’s residency and show is funded by Unlimited and part of Sage Gateshead’s role as a Talent Development Partner for PRS for Music Foundation. Sage Gateshead received a grant from the Foundation to support and provide opportunities for a broad range of musicians.

Tamsin Austin, Director of Performance Programme at Sage Gateshead, said: “I have really enjoyed getting to know Sarah through this project. The way she has used music to control her involuntary movements is fascinating.

“The show she is working on describes her journey and showcases new compositions and arrangements of her own material performed by her, in a variety of ensembles. Sarah’s positivity is infectious, her playing on tuned percussion and piano is remarkable and her story inspirational. Come and see her!

Tickets for ‘Twitch’ – An Evening with Sarah Fisher and Friends are £5.50 are available online now.

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