A year with the Musician’s Optician. Helping musicians to See The Music – Part 3

Summertime, sunshine and music

At Allegro Optical Opticians we specialise in helping musicians to see the music. As we mentioned before it has been a very busy year so we thought now was the perfect time decided to look back over the year. Here we have part three of our retrospective.

July

With the sun in the sky we were visited by two Pianists, a Violinist, a Baritone Horn Player, a Trumpeter, two Cornet Players, three Dancers, an Organist and an Instrument Maker and Repairer and . July was a bit of a quiet month.

Dean’s New Glasses Are The Right Tool for The Job

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. 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 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.

A search to see the 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. 

Dispatch

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 music and the conductor. We 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!”

Clear vision is key for talented organist

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. That was when Andrew’s problems with sight reading began. 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. 

The manual

Andrew 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 Fogotto 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. 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”.

Burbage Band Baritone Is Blown Away

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 for help to see the music. 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. 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 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!’

August

As the school holidays ticked by and many opticians tested a steady stream of children, we saw a steady stream of musicians. These included two Cellists, a Trombonist, a Bassoonist, a French Horn Player, a Violinist, a Viola Player, a Clarinetist, an Oboist, a Conductor,  and a Cor Anglais player

A Maestro’s Consultation

As part of his role as Director of Music, Michael Downes conducts the St Andrews Chamber Orchestra and the St Andrews Chorus (Scotland’s largest choral society), and he founded and conducts Byre Opera. Michael has also lectured on opera and music for bodies including English National Opera and English Touring Opera; the Britten Sinfonia, BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Opera House and Scottish Chamber Orchestra; the Glyndebourne, Huddersfield Contemporary Music and Edinburgh International festivals. Music and the arts is Michael’s passion and he has dedicated his life to music education. But what would you do if your life’s work and passion were threatened by Presbyopia, a relatively simple and very common visual condition? 

From Fife to Yorkshire

Michael traveled from Fife to Meltham for a consultation. The consultation begins with a detailed medical and ocular history and a thorough diagnostic evaluation. The team looked at Michael’s various working distances and angles and plotted a lens design to allow him to conduct both orchestras and choirs with ease. On occasions, Michael is required to conduct both an orchestra and a choir at the same time so a wide visual field is essential. The resultant lens design provides clear vision of the score on the conductor’s stand and a wide field of view for distance with no peripheral distortion allowing him to see all the sections of the orchestras and choirs.   When Michael received his new glasses he was delighted and said; “In recent years I had been having increasing difficulty focusing both on the music and the performers, whether wearing contact lenses or any of the different types of glasses I had tried and particularly in the poor light that you find in many concert halls. The problem was becoming increasingly distressing and starting to distract me from the music that should always be one’s only focus of attention in a concert. Thankfully, as soon as I found Allegro Optical on the Internet, a solution was close at hand. Sheryl and her colleagues instinctively understand what a musician requires from eye-care, which is so different to most other sorts of work. The glasses they have prescribed me not only provide clear vision in every field I need, but are comfortable and light and allow me to communicate directly with the musicians without obstacle. And every single person I met at Allegro Optical was extremely friendly and helpful which made the trip to Yorkshire a very pleasant experience as well as an invaluable one for my work. I recommend them wholeheartedly to anyone experiencing similar problems.”

September

It was a busy month this month, possibly because it was Piano Month. We tested and dispensed three pianists, a Bassoonist, an Oboe player, a clarinetist, a violinist and a Saxophonist, all of whom wanted to see the music.

A Scottish Pianists journey to clear vision – From Perthshire to Saddleworth

Having had pretty poor eyesight all her life Muriel turned to laser surgery in 2005. She elected to undergo monovision correction and chose bilateral monovision LASIK correction. Muriel visited her usual optician in November 2018 but was unhappy with the solution provided. She returned in February and was dispensed with a pair of varifocals. While useful for daily tasks were unsuitable for playing the piano.

It was a long journey

Muriel then visited her optician for a third time in July and was dispensed with a pair of single vision glasses for driving. However these were not as clear as the varifocals. She was also provided with a pair of occupational lenses for music. But she couldn’t see the music without leaning forward considerably, which wasn’t practical. It seemed her optician was unable to help and at this point Muriel began researching musicians eyecare and discovered Allegro Optical. We are over 500 kilometers from Muriels’ home, but she decided to fly down for a consultation anyway. As a result of the bilateral monovision LASIK correction Gemma found Muriel needed uneven near and music stand additions. She also has a variable ocular dominance, as would be expected post LASIK.

A wide field

Playing a piano and sometimes the organ Muriel needs a very wide field of view. Her previous optician had tried to address this by dispensing Zeiss Occupational lenses. They felt the working distance of the lenses were the closest to Muriel’s needs. Sadly for Muriel they didn’t work as she had to keep leaning forwards to see the music in focus. Unfortunately Zeiss, like most large lens manufacturers don’t make lenses specifically for musicians. So it was always going to be a bit of a compromise. Even using the best of the ZEISS Office Lens portfolio with Maximum Intermediate Distance (M.I.D.) technology, the lenses didn’t work. To resolve Muriel’s vision problems and give her clear vision across four sheets of music and the ability to see her audience we had to create a lens design to her Muriel the widest possible field of view. We based her lens design on our Fogotto range of lenses but added an anamorphic component design to widen her field of view further. The term anamorphic derives from the Greek words meaning ”formed again.” This enables us to squeeze in more lateral vision. We also incorporated some prism assistance to help with fixation and fatigue when playing for long periods of time.

A specialist lens

Muriels lenses are made from a 1.67 high index optical resin. This provides durability with minimal weight as she often plays for hours at a time. The last thing she needs is a heavy pair of spectacles weighing on her nose. As Muriel doesn’t always play alone, at times she needs to see her fellow performers, so we needed to produce the lenses in as wide but flattering shape as possible.    Once fitted with her new glasses a few weeks later Muriel was delighted. She utterly surprised by the clarity her new spectacles provided. We even had a cheeky whisky to celebrate. When asked how she felt about her new glasses she said; “I just want you to know how THRILLED I am with all of my new glasses. My eyes feel very comfortable in the varifocals and later today I hope to have a long session at the piano to really test my (stunning) music glasses! Thank you again.”

Allegro Optical enjoys “Entente Cordiale” between Paris and Saddleworth

We receive quite a few enquiries through our website from frustrated musicians and a good number over the phone. Occasionally an enquiry gives us pause for thought and this was exactly what happened when Parisienne French Pipe teacher Agnes Lefebvere contacted us. 

Agnes couldn’t see the music

Agnes explained that she was having real problems focusing, not on her music on her stand, but on that of her students. She had visited at least four optometrists. Always trying to try to find a pair of spectacles which met her needs Agnes was disappointed and frustrated. Agnes explained to us that she needed to read both music on her stand and her students. Having tried single vision glasses with a set point of focus for her music stand, a single focus pair for her students stand, varifocals and occupational lenses, all of which hadn’t worked, she was at her whits end. Increasingly frustrated, Agnes took to the internet. She set about trying to try to find a solution to her vision problems and found Allegro Optical. When she contacted us she explained her requirements and set out what she expected from a pair of “music glasses”. Agnes stands to the right of her students and often has to use two music stands, one in front of the student and her own.   A feature of many French bagpipes is the position of the tenor drone. Located in the same stock as the chanter rather than alongside the bass drone. This places the student on the teachers left and can provide some visual challenges. Luckily our Managing Director Stephen Tighe has quite a few Bagpipe playing friends. So a few phone calls were made to old military band colleagues. Pipers don’t usually use printed music when marching. They tend to play from memory, so it was just the teaching problems to solve. Working with Agnes using Skype and watching her teach  we came up with an interesting solution. 

It’s all about approaching the problem from a musicians perspective

What Agnes needed was a lens that weakened in dioptric power for her left eye.  This would allow her to view her own music and her students. We dispensed Agnes with a single focus lens to her right eye for her music stand and one of our Fogotto lenses, rotated by 90 degrees to her left. The monocular solutions allow Agnes to read her own music while also being able to follow what her students are playing.

La Poste

We posted the new glasses to Agnes a couple of weeks later as they had been prefitted. We then waited to hear how she got on. It wasn’t long before Agnes contacted us saying; “My husband picked up my new glasses in the mail on Wednesday when we were not there when they tried to deliver them. The glasses are so much better than anything I’ve ever used before, thank you very much. I think I still have to move a little, but not as much as in previous pairs. Now I see the music of my students and my own desk much better. They are definitely better than my old glasses. I was a little afraid to buy glasses online, but I am very satisfied with the quality of frames and glasses. Your customer service is second to none and I will definitely be using your business again. I already recommended you to several friends. Thank you for your help.”

Why do musicians come to Allegro Optical?

An independent family run business we are gaining an international reputation for professional excellence and an inventive approach to meeting customer needs. Now known internationally as the ‘Musicians Opticians’ we are attracting many clients from across Europe and further a field. Our groundbreaking work with performers, players and conductors has resulted in Allegro Optical becoming the first and only opticians to gain registration with the British Association for Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM). We treat each client as an individual and it is true that no two musicians are the same. So why should their vision correction be? We enjoy creating unique lenses to meet a musician’s particular needs. As musicians ourselves we can ask the right questions and interpret the answers accordingly, helping more musicians to see the music.

Award-winning eye-care

So successful has Allegro Optical been in helping performers that this year alone. We have scooped no less than five national and regional awards. These awards include the National ‘Best New Arts & Entertainment Business of the Year‘ at a gala event in London. Managing Director Sheryl Doe was awarded the 2019 ‘Dispensing Optician of the Year‘. During March Allegro Optical was awarded the  ‘Scale-Up Business of the Year‘ at the regional finals of the Federation of Small Business awards in York and went on to receive the FSB Chairman’s award at the national finals in May. Finally winning the FBU Yorkshire family business of the year. The company has been featured in many national publications including The Times 4BarsRest, The British Bandsman and Music Teacher Magazine. Are you are a musician who is struggling with their vision? Is making music is no longer the enjoyable experience it once was? If so call us at either Greenfield on 01457 353100 or Meltham on 01484 907090.

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