Inspiring Lives book.

Inspiring Lives Book..

I wasn’t sure that I wanted to be in this book – so I asked myself why? (Here’s my answer) I’m just a bloke who had this spinal injury 43 years ago. I’m not a hero, I’m a musician; I work in an area where my disability is, for the most part, irrelevant. I’ve played guitar from the age of 7. Self-taught, as my family couldn’t afford lessons, I just adored learning and making music. The guitar was my constant companion in daily life. I hoped one day I’d be a musician.
By the age 17 I was a fairly accomplished finger style guitarist, a typical teenager, my first job, active in sport and taking risks. On the way to work one morning I was involved in a road accident and immediately became paralysed from the chest downwards from a spinal injury and had no finger movement. I thought that breaking my neck put paid to all that musician malarkey. However, I was alive and life went on. An experience like being re born, I commenced the rest of my life as a disabled person and started to get on with it.
Eventually, another job, then University, learning to drive an adapted car, being active in sport, including the Paralympics (silver in Korea, 1988), a career in Social Sciences…..but it was always music I loved.
That was then…. However, since 1999, I’ve been a professional lap slide guitarist, recording artist, singer/songwriter and lap slide guitar teacher.
To achieve this has taken years of dedication; developing and maintaining a level of fitness, practice and self awareness. In the early days after my injury the loss of use in my hands was, for me, the most difficult thing to come to terms with. In the usual assessment of dexterity they are rubbish – a claw-like right hand and no movement in the left. But nowadays, I believe that movement and dexterity are different things.
Shortly after hospital discharge, music was simply something I had to continue with. Back home, a guitar was adapted so that it could be played flat on my knee. A piece of tube placed on my left forefinger changed the pitch and I adapted regular picks to enable me to pluck the strings. I became determined no matter how difficult it seemed or how horrible it sounded. Perhaps on one out of ten attempts it sounded okay; then twice, then three times…we are talking years here.
Whilst practising music (amongst other stuff), I worked full time in Social Work. Then, in 1999 I took early retirement and put some serious guitar time in! I recorded my first CD and became a professional self-employed musician. The rewards to me are amazing. To be known in the world as the musician I dreamed of being as a child despite being a tetraplegic…well, you get the picture. I perform internationally and have gained acknowledgement and respect from my musical peers. Most people who hear me on the radio, buy tickets to see my concerts or buy a CD are unaware of my limitations; they like my music – job done!
However – this very thing is so relevant – my disability forces me to be a more creative and resourceful musician. I think out of the box and, if anything, my disability strengthens my musicianship. When I play the guitar well, the experience feels emotional, sensual, technical, controlled yet spontaneous.
Yet like all other artists I know, I’m still trying to improve, still listening and discovering new sounds and delving into the bottomless pit of being the best musician I can be, searching for the lost chord.
www.tomdoughty.com

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