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Meet The Team – Euphonium Player James Brooks – Clinical Support Technician – Allegro Optical Greenfield

Today’s ‘Team Blog’ is all about one of our Greenfield team here at Allegro Optical – James Brooks.

James Brooks - Blog- Allegro Optical - The Musicians Opticians - Greenfield SaddleworthClinical Support Technician James joined us through his musical connections and works full-time at our Saddleworth practice in the lovely village of Greenfield. His advanced skills in I.T. and his vast musical background makes him the perfect fit for us here at Allegro. James has been with us for 8 months now and is already making huge strides with his progression by being accepted onto the ‘Optical Assistants’ course with ABDO, Association of British Dispensing Opticians which he will start in September. We see him as a big part of the future of Allegro Optical and know he has a fantastic career ahead of him with us. James Oldham Lees bandA keen brass player, James has played Euphonium with various Championship Section brass bands across the North-West and Yorkshire.

From Baritone to Euphonium

James started playing Baritone at the age of 10 at Diggle training band under the leadership of one of our clients, Dave Shipp. He quickly progressed up to the ‘B’ band where it soon became clear he needed something a little bigger! He was handed a Euphonium and the rest, as they say, is history. James progressed in the Diggle setup and went on to play with the ‘A’ band before deciding to move on to join the then Championship Section band, Dobcross Silver under the direction of Dennis Hadfield. James spent 3 years at Dobcross before signing for Yorkshire Championship Section outfit, Pennine Brass. He was lured back to Dobcross for a further 2 years. This time under Grenville Moore where he won the North-West regional championships. In 2010, James signed for his village band, The Oldham Band (Lees) where he won more contests than we can fit into this blog and he hasn’t looked back since!

It’s not just about the brass

In addition to his love of Brass James plays the guitar and in his free time he is also learning to play the piano. We feel this places James in the perfect position to help correct the vision of all our musician clients. James Brooks Euphonium Player Oldham Lees Band at the Albert Hall James is a big fan of Oldham Athletic Football Club and he has been an avid supporter all his life. In fact he was just 1 week old when he attended his first game. James’ Mum worked on the Oldham turnstiles and he used to go to work with her. When not at work, playing his Euphonium or supporting Oldham Athletic? James loves to spend time with his family, partner Kayleigh and 1-year old daughter Olivia who keeps him busy. At Allegro Optical we always put family first and are passionate about family values. Allegro Optical recently won the Yorkshire and Humber Family Business of the Year Award.
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Dean’s New Glasses Are The Right Tool for The Job

Now musician Dean can see the music thanks to his new glasses

For the serious musician, music is more than just a hobby! For most of us it is our “passion”. Many of us are lucky enough to carve out a career in the music industry. Not just as musicians, but working with musicians, providing a service, just like Allegro Optical. Some dedicated musicians choose to follow a career in instrument making and repair. Dean Pelling of Dean Pelling Woodwind and Brass is one gentleman who has made music his life. Born and bred in Hastings, Dean is an active member of the local music scene, having played the trumpet and cornet since the age of 10. Dean studied at the prestigious City of Leeds College of Music, gaining a distinction and winning the coveted friends of C.L.C.M prize for Instrument Technology in 1989. Dean then set up Dean Pelling Woodwind and Brass. He learned to play and test all brass and woodwind instruments as part of all his repair work. Working with both professional and amateur players from all over the country, Dean uses a mix of traditional skills, modern tooling and techniques. He is well known within the industry as a first-class repairer and instrument technician.

Dean Pelling of Dean Pelling Woodwind and Brass buys his glasses from Allegro Optical the musicians optician

Photograph by kind permission of Chris Johnson Photography 

Focusing on the music

Dean loves his music and he enjoys his work. He plays both Trumpet and Cornet regularly with Battle Town Band, many local big bands, choral societies and pit orchestras. But Dean was becoming increasingly frustrated as he struggles to maintain adequate focus on the music on the stand. While still in his 40s, Dean was experiencing the early symptoms of presbyopia. He also had an issue with convergence insufficiency, including symptoms such as blurred vision at the music stand, eye fatigue and frequent loss of place when reading music. Following an internet search, Dean discovered Allegro Optical and contacted us. There then followed a few conversations regarding lens options and the taking of some measurements remotely. Dean sent us his prescription and his own frame. He opted for the performers’ lenses, which we glazed with some base-in prism in addition to Deans prescription. We utilised the prism to help alleviate the symptoms of presbyopia and convergence insufficiency. By using base in prism, We were able to glaze Deans prescription remotely without him having to travel up to the North of England, as we have built up a huge database of musicians lens designs, based on each instrument and many prescriptions. Dean is now able to maintain his focus on his sheet music on the stand. He can enjoy a wider field of view and still see the conductor.

Always Insured

We posted Deans new glasses to him but unfortunately, Royal Mail failed to deliver the parcel. We dispatch all our prescription eyewear using a fully insured, tracked and signed for service. The idea being that the glasses reach their destination quickly and safely. Occasionally things go wrong and the package goes missing. Dean contacted us to say it hadn’t arrived, so we claimed on the insurance. We sourced a replacement frame for Dean and reproduced the lenses, and dispatched the new glasses to Dean as quickly as possible. Having used his new glasses for a few times Dean said; “Wow – what a difference the specs have made, I no longer have eye strain after a long rehearsal or gig. The only downside is that I can clearly see the conductor as well as the music!”

The “Musicians’ Optician”

Musicians can present the dispensing optician with many challenges both regarding working distances and head position. But with the right approach and asking pertinent questions, these issues can all be resolved. As the current Dispensing Optician of the Year Allegro Optical is becoming well known for our specialism in correcting musicians. As the only BAPAM register optical practice in the UK we produce individual solutions to suit their individual needs which are not available elsewhere. As musicians ourselves, the team at Allegro Optical approach the musician’s vision problems from a musicians perspective. We have built up a considerable following as a result. We are passionate about the specific visual needs of musicians, performers and presenters. Our clients are wide-ranging, from professional classical musicians to members of well-known brass bands. We also help music teachers, performers, TV presenters and dancers as well as keen amateur musicians of all genres and those who have taken up a new instrument later in life.
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Clear vision is key for talented organist

An Organist’s Journey to clear vision

Keyboard player Andrew Smith has had an interesting musical career, to say the least. No stranger to the stage, Andrews early gigs were playing keyboards as part of a jazz-funk band during the 80s. During his mid-20s and 30s, Andrew had a career in education teaching music. He then moved into music production, finally returning to music, teaching piano and pipe organ in his late 50s.

While having formal training and a huge amount of experience, Andrew thought this late career change wouldn’t be a problem. His music theory is excellent, as was his sight reading. However, the sight reading wasn’t without some unexpected issues. Andrew began to experience some difficulty in focusing on the manuscript, particularly when seated to the side of his students. A seasoned varifocal wearer, he found that the area of clear focus of the music on the stand was very narrow. This became problematic when trying to follow his students progress through the manuscript while they were playing. 

Andrew visited his usual high street optician who assured him they could help. His optician initially dispensed a pair of office or computer glasses. Andrew found these were of very little help. He found he was having to lean forward and raise his head to see the music, causing him neck pain. Andrew returned to his opticians who then suggested bifocals, but these also failed to provide a suitable solution. Andrew then tried another independent optician, but again was unable to obtain a workable solution. In frustration, Andrew mentioned his dilemma to a friend who recommended he try Allegro Optical, “the musicians’ optician.”

A call for help

Andrew called Allegro Optical and paid us a visit. He outlined the problems he was having and it wasn’t long before we had designed a lens to solve all his vision problems. We dispensed Andrew with a pair of our Fogoto lenses into a lightweight rimless mount. Andrew is moderately myopic so we opted for this lens design as Andrew needs an extremely wide field of view. He often plays on up to four manuals and needs a clear view of the music and all the organ stops. Also, the position of Andrew’s music stand can vary greatly. The music can be on a stand which is between 55cm and as far away as 95cm. The Fogoto lens design provides the very widest visual field in the mid area of the lens while providing a comfortable position for reading the music at any distance.

 

Andrew visited our Meltham practice a couple of weeks later to collect his glasses and have them fitted. He commented immediately on the improvement the new lenses delivered.

A happy customer

Having tried the lenses in various situations Andrew contacted us and said;  

We are all often quick to complain and slow to praise, but I feel I have to acknowledge   Allegro Optical and the incredible work you do.  

“It’s felt like a revelation to discover your incredible service. Why are you such a secret? As a teacher and musician, I have been frustrated by the limitations of my previous varifocal spectacles when reading music and teaching. Having visited quite a few opticians who all made promises they couldn’t keep I was always left disappointed.

“I was so excited when I visited you, I was also surprised and delighted to find a beautiful piano in the opticians’ room.  I can’t thank you enough for giving me my eyes back. My new glasses really work, not only when I’m playing and teaching, but in so many other situations as well.

 “The friendliness and warmth of all the staff also make a huge difference. Sheryl is so understanding and her experience and insight are much appreciated. Not only does she completely understand the needs of the musician she is an incredibly knowledgeable optician. I highly recommend Sheryl and all her team to any musician or teacher experiencing vision problems”.

Conclusion

This case study has illustrated the variety of dispensing challenges that practitioners may face when a musician presents in practice. The individual needs of musicians are often misunderstood.

Allegro Optical,” the musicians’ optician”, is a dispensing led practice with a highly professional team that specialises in the optical correction of musicians, presenters and performers. Managing Director (Optics) and proprietor Sheryl Doe BSc (Hons), FBDO, is the current dispensing optician of the year, she excels at providing bespoke optical solutions for musicians and performers.

So whether you want advice or a practical solution call Allegro Optical in Greenfield, Saddleworth on 01457 353100 or Meltham, Holmfirth on 01484 907090 or visit allegrooptical.co.uk 

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Colour Is the Melody of Image in Saddleworth

Colour and Image in Saddleworth

Coco Chanel famously said ‘the best colour in the world is the one that looks good on you.’

Well, that’s easier said than done. Or is it?

We know many people, ladies, in particular, find themselves asking “What colour suits me?” We decided to lend a hand to ladies to help them solve this dilemma. Last week we hosted an evening of colour and style with speakers talking about wellbeing, styling and colour. Image and styling consultant Catherine Maloney talked about the benefits of wearing the right colours and how they impact on our emotions, styling to suit shape and personality. Catherine was joined by our Dispensing Optician of the Year, Sheryl Doe who talked about Sunglasses and summers essential accessories.

Catherine and Sheryl took their guests on a journey of colour and style. Helping them to discover their perfect colours with the use of a colour wheel. They discussed what colours look good with different skin, hair and eye colours. Along with giving handy tips on what styles of clothing, spectacles and sunglasses suit different personalities, face shapes and build.

Allegro Optical the musicians optician - Colour consultant from House of colour talks about how Image is everything

A little fizz and nibbles

Those attending enjoyed a prosecco reception and nibbles supplied by Scona of Greenfield.  Everyone left knowing how to create the illusion of being perfectly proportioned, able to accentuate their best features and camouflage those they’re not quite so proud of, along with a goody bag.

Guests had the opportunity to ask questions after the presentation. They also had the opportunity to try on a selection of British sunglasses, including some handmade styles from Hemp eyewear in Edinburgh and Walter and Herbert from Liverpool.

Colour and Style

Image is everything at Allegro Optical Optical the musicians optician

Allegro Optical is the only optician to provide a colour analysis service. We do this to help clients look fabulous in their new glasses and to radiate confidence. If you would like to book an eye test and colour consultation with the Dispensing Optician of the Year don’t hesitate to get in touch. With branches in Greenfield and Meltham there are appointments available to suit everyone. To book your appointment call Greenfield on 01457 353100 or Meltham 01484 907090

 

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Burbage Band Baritone Is Blown Away

Burbage Bands musicians are blowing in harmony thanks to Allegro

Some people say things come in threes and that is certainly true for Burbage Band’s first baritone Jeanne Henson. Jean visited Allegro Optical, the musicians’ optician on the recommendation of her friends and fellow band members, Tuba players Adrian Davis and David Harrison who had both visited us.

Varifocal wearer Jeanne was having problems with her spectacles. She was having to move them constantly to try and find an area of clarity within the lenses. For playing Jeanne used some single vision lenses prescribed for the music stand distance, but was unable to see the conductor. Adrian suggested that Jeanne should pay us a visit.

Following a thorough eye examination, we found Jeanne had a moderate hyperopic prescription, with quite a high near addition for her age. We measured her visual field and checked her ocular dominance. Ocular dominance is our preference to process visual input from one eye over the other. Assessing Ocular dominance is particularly important for musicians who play an instrument that partly obscures their visual field.

Near and Far

We dispensed a pair of varifocal spectacles for everyday wear and a pair of our Fogoto lenses for playing to enable Jeanne to see the music on the stand and the conductor. Jeanne collected her new glasses and she was delighted with her varifocals, but struggled with her music glasses.

We checked everything and found the lenses and prescription to be accurate. However, we then discovered that Jeanne’s dominant eye is only dominant in the distance, her ocular dominance switches at near distances. The dominance switch point is around 50 cm beyond the music stand distance.

Approximately two-thirds of the population are right-eye dominant and one-third left-eye dominant. But very few have different dominance at near and distance tasks, Jeanne was one such musician. Adding the alternating dominance issue to the fact that the baritone obscures part of Jeanne’s right visual field we had our work cut out.

 

A balanced solution

We remade Jeanne’s spectacles taking into account the changing ocular dominance, weighting the left lens for distance and the right for near, taking into account the obscured field in that eye. We carefully balanced both lenses to give as wide a field as possible at the music stand. The result was perfect, giving Jeanne clear vision of the music and the conductor. She can now see clearly without her alternating ocular dominance causing any problems. Even though the instrument partially obscures the music on the stand for the right eye. Jeanne was delighted and pleased that we had been able to resolve the dominance issues. Giving her clear vision at all performing distances.Horn-player-Jeanne-Henson-of-Burbage-Brass-Band-buys-her-glasses-from-Allegro-Optical-the-musicians-optician-in-Greenfield-Saddleworth-and-Meltham-Holmfirth.jpg

Having collected her new glasses Jeanne decided to buy a pair for marching. We made a pair of glasses with refractive powers calculated for the position of the lyer. We designed the lenses to enable her to see her music clearly while marching and playing. Jeanne collected the new glasses after returning from holiday. She was very happy with the result. The only problem now is, she has no excuses for playing incorrect notes!

Jeanne said; ‘Until I visited Allegro Optical and met Sheryl Doe, I had no idea that it was possible to cover all the different optical variants required as a musician who wore glasses. Now that I have glasses for all situations and distances it is a real treat to be able to see everything I need to, even the face of the conductor when he glares at me!’

Why Allegro?

This case study illustrates how frustrating presbyopia can become for many musicians. Focusing at the many different distances becomes very problematic. As was Jeanne’s case many musicians struggle with the varying focal distances required of the amateur and professional. Some musicians suffer from postural problems, often caused by their deteriorating vision as they try to compensate for this reduced visual clarity.

With an understanding of the playing and seating positions of musicians, these vision problems can be overcome. The musicians working and playing life can then easily be improved.  Many Musicians who experience focusing problems at different distances are unaware that there is a solution to their vision problems.

Unique lenses for unique people

Frequently Optometrists and Opticians either prescribe and dispense single vision lenses for the music stand. Some do dispense Computer or Occupational lenses, acknowledging the musicians varied focusing points.  Unfortunately, these lenses don’t give enough depth of field. Some opticians even claim these occupational lenses to be specialist music lenses!

Do you need help?

If you are a musician looking for help from an optician check out their website. Do they have evidence of the work they do with musicians? Do your research beforehand and always use a specialist with a proven track record. Look out for blogs and case studies for the evidence that they can do what they say.  To be honest a good specialist sports lens will be able to provide a better solution for some musicians than any occupational or vocational lens can. Musicians use their eyes in a very similar way to sporting professionals.

At Allegro Optical we design all our musicians’ lenses individually and they are manufactured to our own unique format. In fact, our senior dispensing optician and co-founder Sheryl has recently been awarded the title “Dispensing Optician of the Year 2019” for her work in this field. Other Opticians and Optometrists frequently contact Sheryl when needing help with a musician they have seen in their practice.

Always check that the lenses you are prescribed are designed for the intended purpose.  Please be aware that leading lens manufacturers DO NOT make lenses designed specifically for musicians. If it’s musicians’ lenses you need call Allegro Optical in Meltham, Holmfirth on 01484 907090. Or Allegro Optical in Greenfield on 01457 353100