Making Music beyond the sound barrier: teaching and performing with hearing loss

Presenters: Dr Lara James and Gaelen McCormick

Dr Lara James
Gaelen McCormick


Dr Lara James (violinist, Pate’s Grammar School and Cheltenham College, UK) and Professor Gaelen McCormick (double bassist, Eastman School of Music, Rochester, USA) will address issues surrounding hearing loss and music, from their perspective of performing and teaching as musicians with a hearing impairment.

They will speak about the bias they face(d) in the field of music, and some strategies and tools for hearing they have developed. These include concepts such as proprioception, sympathetic vibration, and resonance of a room, tools that are useful to musicians regardless of hearing state.

They will share about the types of hearing devices that can help a musician with a hearing loss to enjoy music-making.

By speaking about their own experiences of hearing loss and the barriers they have had to work with, they aim to break down some of the stigmas endured by musicians with hearing loss and promote a more inclusive attitude.

After an initial presentation, we welcome a diverse discussion with attendees.


Dr Lara James is a baroque violinist who has performed with world renowned orchestras such as The Academy of Ancient Music, The English Concert, and The Hanover Band. For several years, she was a member of the Haydn Lute Trio, and gave chamber music recitals of Classical and Baroque repertoire at music societies and universities around the UK. As a soloist and chamber musician Lara made her live radio debut in 2005 on BBC Radio 3’s “In Tune” performing violin sonatas by Bach and Corelli. 

As a teacher, Lara has over three decades’ experience with posts held at Wycombe Abbey School, Birkdale School, Sheffield, and current positions at Pate’s Grammar School, Dean Close, and Cheltenham College as well as at The King’s School, Worcester. She has taught all levels from beginners to diploma standard, adults and children, on the piano and violin.

Lara gained a double First-Class BA Hons in German and Music, and a PhD from the University of Bristol before completing a postgraduate course in Early Music performance at The Royal Conservatory, The Hague. Further formative training took place as a member of the National Youth Orchestra of the Netherlands (under Philippe Herreweghe), and with the European Union Baroque Orchestra under Roy Goodman and Paul Goodwin.

Pre-university, Lara attended the Junior Department of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama for four years, alongside her local comprehensive school in Essex. At the GSMD she was a joint first-study student on violin and piano gaining her ALCM diploma on the piano at the age of 17. 

For almost forty years Lara studied and worked as a partially deaf musician being able only to hear in the right ear. Since receiving a pioneering bone-anchored cochlear hearing implant in January 2022, she has decided to work openly to advocate more understanding and less stigma of hearing loss in musicians.

Gaelen McCormick’s career started on stage with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. After 23 years, she “retired” due to deafness and now is making a new path in the arts in healthcare field, leading the Eastman Performing Arts Medicine program at the University of Rochester.

She is the president-elect of the International Society of Bassists. Pedagogy is an integral part of her career, whether helping new bass players to find their voice and learn to play without injury,or helping teachers create bass studios and school programs that are sustainable.

Gaelen recently celebrated 20 years on the faculty of the Eastman Community Music School. She is the author of three pedagogy books for developing bow technique, Mastering the Bow vol 1-3, and a book of duets for developing bassists, Double Trouble, all published by Carl Fischer.

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