A talented pianist’s search for help to see the music
In this blog, we look at how a talented and inspiring Pianist was helped by our specialist musicians’ glasses. Yanna is a fascinating woman, and it has been a pleasure to collaborate with her. Her music history encompasses the traditions of her family’s heritage, (Asia Minor) and the complexity of her musical background, as evidenced by a successful career as a teacher, concert pianist, conductor, and accompanist.
Yanna was born in Thessaloniki, Greece and is a proud citizen of both Greece and the UK. She grew up with a wide range of musical influences from her parents’ unusual musical interests that covered everything from Greek folk music and Theodorakis to Tchaikovsky and Bartok.
Time to Tango
From a young age, Yanna played the piano for her parents and their friends, reading from a piece of faded photocopied ‘fake’ sheet music with all the fashionable tangos, waltzes and ballads of the 1930s and 40s as they all sang in harmony.
Yanna is an experienced pianist and accompanist. In 1987 she was awarded the Dimitri Sgouros ‘Prize and Scholarship’ by the New Conservatory of Thessaloniki from where she graduated in 1988 with the ‘Diploma for Piano performance and teaching’.
She continued her piano and conducting studies at the Royal Academy of Music in London, where she was awarded the Cipriani Potter Exhibition prize during her second year as an ‘Advanced Studies’ student. She graduated with the ‘Diploma of Advanced Studies’ in 1990. Yanna moved to the US in 1991 where she gained her Master’s degree in ‘Piano Performance and Literature’ at the Eastman School of Music, Rochester NY U.S.A. in 1993.
After a 10-year worldwide concert career, Yanna settled in the UK where she raised a family, taught the piano privately and classroom music since 1993. Since 2018, Yanna is getting back to performing professionally and is currently preparing her first solo CD album which is due to be released in December 2022.
In 2018 Yanna co-founded ANIMO, a flute and piano duo, with her friend Sarah Waycott. Since 2019, she is the proud owner of a Gustav Klimt (Goldene Adele) Bosendorfer 214 VC which she has used for several recordings, Animo’s first and second CD albums and weekly Livestreams during the last few years.
Yanna needed to see the music
Having always had a relatively high myopic prescription Yanna is an experienced spectacle wearer. However, the varied focusing distance required of a professional pianist was beginning to present her with the problems associated with presbyopia which are very familiar to us at Allegro Optical. Yanna needed to see her music on the stand, her musical collaborators and ideally a good view in her periphery.
Yanna first contacted Allegro Optical in February 2020, just before the COVI|D-19 crisis and the ensuing national lockdown.
She explained that she played a grand piano and had begun to struggle with blurry notes and indistinguishable shapes and lines. Yanna told us that when playing professionally and performing downlighters or overhead lighting reflected and displaced the image she saw. This caused all the notes to become blurry. The reading glasses that were made for her were impractical and her varifocal lenses gave too narrow a field of view.
Yanna booked her first appointment with Allegro Optical for Friday 27th March in Greenfield, Saddleworth. That was unfortunately postponed due to the first 2020 lockdown and Yanna didn’t get to visit us until September the same year. In the meantime, Yanna began having some issues with a retinal tear and was referred to Birmingham Midland Eye Center for further advice and investigation.
Following her discharge from the hospital in August 2020, Yanna contacted us again and we arranged an appointment in September of the same year.
A bit of a conundrum
The day of Yanna’s visit was an extremely busy day, with a very full clinic. Optometrist and flautist Amy carried out a thorough eye examination and noted Yanna’s complex ocular history and her many working distances. She then produced a prescription
covering all Yanna’s working distances and then introducing her to dispensing optician Sheryl.
Sheryl took all of Yanna’s facial measurements to help her find a frame that fitted perfectly, both in terms of comfort and performance. Well-fitted frames would provide the perfect mount for Yanna’s complex lenses. The frame also had to be practical but reflect Yanna’s unique style and work with her deep colouring. They also had to stay put while Yanna was playing. Little did the pair realise this meeting was to be the start of a long-time collaboration and Yanna now works with Allegro Optical to help us develop musicians’ eye care further and to raise awareness among performing artists of the need for specialist eye care.
Multiple distances require multiple solutions
After some discussion, Sheryl was concerned that including her correction for an elevated music stand in one pair, would compromise Yanna’s field of view and posture. To give the very best solution they settled on one pair of varifocals for everyday wear and another for use with a music stand.
Yanna opted for a Hook LDN HKS011 frame in Navy and Tortoise as the colours complimented her colouring, reflecting her personality while providing a comfortable fit and good lens size. We glazed these lenses with an individualised freeform varifocal in 1.74 index lenses with Transitions® Signature® GEN 8™, the first intelligent photochromic lens with their breakthrough nanocomposite technology that enhances photochromic performance and provides optimal vision, comfort and all-day protection.
Something for the piano
To provide the widest possible area for music (about 1.2 meters across and elevated) Sheryl dispensed a pair of spectacles with our Fogoto lenses to provide the widest and deepest field possible.
This time Yanna opted for a traditional yet iconic style of frame, choosing the Anglo American 313, HYBG. Again we decided to glaze these lenses with Transitions® Signature® GEN 8™. Yanna’s music room has a lot of glass with two huge windows. Glare is often a problem and a photochromic lens option appealed to her.
Things don’t always go to plan
When Yanna collected her new spectacles she was delighted with the varifocals, but it quickly became apparent that there was an issue with the right eye in the music spectacles. While the vision in her left eye was in her words “amazing” the music in the right side of her right eye appears blurred. We invited Yanna back for further investigation. Optometrist and Gospel Singer Gemma carried out a detailed eye exam and found that Yanna had some partial defects on her binocular visual field exam, possibly caused by some slight scarring. Yanna had developed a “Weiss ring”, a circular peripapillary attachment that forms following a Posterior Vitreous Detachment (PVD) from the optic nerve head. We then worked some prism into Yanna’s lens design to try to resolve the issue by moving the image she sees from the scarred area of the retina.
Yanna visited Birmingham Midland Eye Centre again in March 2021 but decided against vitrectomy surgery because of the risk of retinal detachment. In January 2022 Yanna felt she needed a change of glasses and she again travelled up to Meltham. This time she saw Optometrist and fellow pianist Liz. Liz conducted a 3D OCT examination which revealed a large mass of floaters from Yanna’s previous PVD in the right eye and a partial PVD in the left eye.
Since her last visit, we had invested in a Saccadic Clinical Eye Tracker allowing Liz to assess binocular function while the patient is sight-reading or making a series of saccades or performing other complex tasks. This was a game-changer for Yanna as the examination revealed her binocular vision to be a little unstable. Her fixation disparity varied and prisms now preferred the opposite to phorias. Liz also found that while the right eye was dominant in the distance Yanna was now left eye dominant near. The floaters in her right eye also seemed to be causing problems.
The trick now was to create a pair of spectacles that would help Yanna to continue playing despite all her vision problems. Sheryl designed a pair of lenses that would make the most of Yanna’s limited vision in her right eye. With a difference of nearly three diopters, there was a danger of double vision caused by differing image sizes. This was resolved by using different indices and asphericising the right lens to reduce minification. Using computer numeric control technology we were able to create a lens that minimised optical aberrations giving Yanna the best vision possible.
When Yanna collected her glasses we ran the same Saccadic Clinical Eye Tracker exam with her new glasses on. The exam revealed no binocular problems whatsoever. Yanna was delighted and it wasn’t long before she left the following Google review.
Yanna said; “Probably the most thorough, knowledgeable and persistent in getting results opticians I have ever encountered! I went to Allegro Optical initially for musician’s glasses. I really wanted to be able to see more when performing on stage and to be able to communicate with my duo colleagues rather than looking at a foggy outline or having to swap glasses all the time. Unfortunately, a retinal tear that developed immediately after I made my first appointment in 2020 and COVID getting in the way of everything, we had to work around many difficulties, none of which deterred the owner Sheryl Doe, who was determined to make me the best possible pair of glasses as close to the original brief as possible. And in April 2022 they did! I am the very happy owner of two fantastic pairs of specs, one varifocal and the other my “magic” pair for playing the piano and working on the computer. This was all possible thanks also to their new saccadic eye scanner which showed them exactly the kind of issues I had to struggle through when I was reading a score. The result is miraculous! I can see better, my eyes are more relaxed, I am not getting a single headache from reading music or working on the computer and as for my varifocals, it’s like I am not wearing glasses, that’s how comfortable they are! Allegro, Optical thank you!
I would recommend Allegro’s unique skills to anyone, particularly if you are struggling with any eye issues or you want to be able to read music effortlessly. Superb service in every way!”
Why do musicians come to Allegro Optical?
As 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 afield. 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.
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‘ and in 2021 Allegro Optical Dispensing Optician Kim Walker scooped the same title.
The company has been featured in many national publications including The Times 4BarsRest, The British Bandsman and Music Teacher Magazine.
Are you a musician who is struggling with their vision? Is making music no longer the enjoyable experience it once was? If so call us at Greenfield on 01457 353100, Marsden 01484 768888 or Meltham on 01484 907090.