The inability to see the music left trombonist “brassed off”
If ever we discover the meaning of life, we’re fairly certain that in our case it will involve music. So just imagine if music has always been a big part of your life. How you would feel if that gift were threatened. Tony Spencer of Simply Brass was facing that very situation when he came across Allegro Optical, “the musicians’ optician” at Brass in Concert at the Sage in Gateshead. Coincidentally Tony was a former player of many years with Kippax band, who recently won the Yorkshire Regional Brass Band Finals and are conducted by none other than Allegro Opticals Managing Director Stephen Tighe.
Tony is a trombonist and co-founder of Scarborough based community band “Simply Brass”. He decided to travel to Meltham with his trombone a full consultation as he was struggling. To say that Tony presented us with a bit of a challenge is a bit of an understatement. But it has been a very rewarding experience for us as we have pushed the boundaries as a result.
Tony has a few eye disorders including early cataracts. He also has an epiretinal membrane (ERM), a condition resulting in a very thin layer of scar tissue. This has formed on the surface of the retina.
In addition to this, Tony has presbyopia and a very dominant left eye. Another issue is that while Tony’s left eye is his dominant eye it is also amblyopic, or “lazy”. Some studies have shown that saccadic latency is increased in cases of dominant amblyopic eyes. Making seeing the music increasingly difficult, often resulting in double vision. So it is no surprise that Tony was having problems.
Finding the perfect solution
After a thorough consultation with our senior optometrist Claire Wightman, she decided to blur Tony’s left dominant eye. It was causing more problems with his vision than it was solving. By Suppressing his vision in the amblyopic eye Claire was able to eliminate the symptoms of double vision. This improved his convergence and gave him a clear view of the music and the conductor.
Initially, we dispensed Tony with one of our Fogoto lenses to the right eye. To give him the widest possible field of view, but this compromised his vertical field. This can be a problem for Trombonists as the weight of the instrument can cause the musician to pitch forward. Thereby raising the pupil position in the lens, altering the vertical field. Because of this, we changed the design of the right lens to a digitised freeform single vision lens with a small power reduction in the top allowing Tony to see the conductor. For the left, we used a balance single vision aspheric lens with a higher plus power.
Tony opted for photochromic lenses to help when playing outdoor summer concerts. An anti-reflection coating to help with the glare caused by cataracts and an oleophobic coating for easy cleaning. The job turned out to be a bit of a challenge for the lab as matching the photochromic layers. Reducing the magnification effect of the left lens proved difficult too, but by using different indices they got there in the end.
Freeform lens generation
Today’s new freeform generators are now so accurate they allow us to generate a nearly infinite number of lens surfaces with extreme precision and all in the UK. Tony opted for a fabulous British designed acetate frame from Hook LDN which gave him a good field of view with maximum style.
When Tony collected his new glasses he was able to see the music on the stand clearly. He was also able to focus on the conductor. We contacted Tony a few days later to see how he was getting on with his new glasses. He said; “This innovative approach by Sheryl and her colleagues at Allegro Optical has hopefully increased my time in banding.”
On a recent visit, Tony even gave us a demonstration of his sight reading with his new glasses.
Why do musicians come to Allegro Optical?
We are an independent family run business gaining an international reputation for our professional excellence, as well as our inventive approach to meeting customer needs.
Known internationally as the ‘Musicians Opticians’ for our groundbreaking work with performers, players and conductors have resulted in us becoming the first and only opticians to gain registration with the British Association for Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM).
We don’t hold with the idea that giving a musician a pair of occupational lenses, bifocals or degressive readers will solve all their problems. We treat each client as an individual because they are all individuals. Creating unique lenses to meet a musician’s particular needs is a challenge we like to embrace. As musicians ourselves we can ask the right questions and interpret the answers accordingly.
In fact so successful have we been in helping performers that during March we scooped the National ‘Best New Arts & Entertainment Business of the Year‘ at a gala event in London. As March drew to a close Managing Director Sheryl Doe becoming the 2019 ‘Dispensing Optician of the Year‘. Also 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 Chairmans award at the national finals in May.
Geneva Instruments’ Angelo Bearpark get’s his eyes backJust imagine having a passion in life and it is under threat, all because your eyesight is failing. You’ve spent your whole life pursuing something you love, honing your skill until you’re at the top of your game. Then disaster strikes, you begin to have problems seeing to read. Looking at your phone becomes difficult and out of focus. When you are a musician things get even more problematic as the music on the stand starts to blur.
Focusing on the problemThis is exactly what happened to world-famous brass band soloist Angelo Bearpark. Angelo who is a Geneva Instruments Performing Artist, Development & Promotional Consultant began to struggle with his vision at 30 cm for a mobile phone reading, and about 40 cm when reading menus and for eating etc. He tried varifocals but they were far from ideal. Out of desperation, Angelo turned to refractive laser surgery in 2005. To make the multiple working distances easier, Angelo opted for monovision LASIK surgery to reduce the need for reading glasses. Using this technique, the surgeon fully corrects the distance vision of one eye (usually the dominant eye), and intentionally leaves the nondominant eye mildly short sighted.
A temporary fixThis solution worked well at first but over the course of time, Angelo began to struggle again, this time with his mid-range. In fact exactly where his music stand is. A disaster for a musician, but especially so for a player of Angelo’s calibre. In addition to teaching in his music school Angelo, works as a music consultant with a variety of ensembles. Like many mature musicians, he became increasingly frustrated with his focusing problems when playing and teaching.
Whit Friday in SaddleworthAngelo, who lives in Chermignon in Switzerland travelled to the UK to compete in the famous Whit Friday band contests with his local band.
Designing an individual solution for a very individual musicianAs a post Lasik patient, Angelo suffers from glare caused by scarring from the refractive surgery. For this reason, we felt a photochromic lens with a multi-layer broadband anti-reflective coating was the ideal solution. Especially as sunlight in Switzerland is very bright all year round. Because Angelo now has monovision, we also had the difference in image sizes to overcome. Being more long-sighted in one eye, all spectacle corrections will make the image he sees in that eye larger as well as sharper. This potentially could have been a problem as it may have induced double vision. We addressed this problem by making the two lenses in different index materials but produced them with the same photochromic layer and multilayer broadband anti-reflective coating to match the lens surface appearances. This created a cosmetically pleasing pair of lenses and controlled the double vision.
The wider the betterThe next issue to address was the field of view. Angelo needed a much wider field of view than that provided by any progressive addition lenses (Varifocals). He needed to be able to see three sheets of music on the stand clearly at the same time. Even if sat to one side when teaching. An occupational lens didn’t provide enough depth or width of visual field, so our only option was to design a completely bespoke pair of lenses, suited to Angelos very specific needs, from lyre to the conductor.
A one offHaving spent a great deal of time measuring lens position, the direction of gaze and head position, we were able to produce completely individual lenses. The resulting lenses provide the power for the specific distances exactly where he needs it while maintaining a wide, clear field of view. We glazed the lenses into a titanium supra frame to provide a tough and durable lightweight mount, with the added benefit of being almost invisible when on stage. The lenses also have a coating which is anti-static, scratch resistant, hydro and oleophobic, for an excellent cosmetic and long-lasting finish. When Angelo collected his glasses he was delighted commenting that he felt he had got his eyes back. Anglo said, “I am so pleased with my new glasses. They allow me to see music over three sheets on the stand perfectly well and I can look up and see the conductor. I am able to drive in them and I can see to read. They are so much better than my old varifocals and my old degressive lenses. I can now concentrate on my playing rather than trying to concentrate on seeing.” Conclusion 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. Allegro Optical specialises in correcting musicians and we produce individual solutions to suit their needs, which are not available elsewhere. Allegro Optical approach the musician’s vision problems from their perspective and have built up a considerable following as a result. We are passionate about the specific visual needs of musicians and presenters. By providing a range of tailor-made services including advice on eye health, optical correction on-site vision assessments, and specialist technology for those affected by reduced visual clarity. Our clients are wide-ranging, from professional classical musicians to members of well-known brass bands. We also help music teachers and performers, TV presenters as well as keen amateur musicians of all genres and those who have taken up a new instrument later in life.
Meltham’s Musician’s OpticianIt wasn’t long after we had opened our practice in Meltham, near Huddersfield and Holmfirth, that Rhian Evans walked through our door. A friend had told her about our new optician practice and that we specialised in helping musicians. Professional Harpist Rhian explained that she had been experiencing focusing problems when performing. It is the close proximity of the strings of her harp and the more distant position of the music stand that was causing her problems Rhian needed to see the high-pitched strings immediately to her right at a distance of just 23 cm. Her music stand, however, is 95cm to her left, and the conductor usually 5 meters away directly in front of her.
A creative solutionRhian had been struggling with 2 pairs of single vision glasses for distance and near. We dispensed a pair of adapted progressive lenses with a compensated orientation to take into account Rhian’s working distances and head position. The lenses were mounted into a rimless frame to be less conspicuous on stage. We used a high index lens for durability, with an anti-reflective coating to improve vision, reduce glare and improve the cosmetic appearance of the lenses. Rhian collected her spectacles two weeks later. As with all progressive lenses, there was a period of adaptation, but as with all things, practice makes perfect.
An excellent performance from the musician’s lensesRhian said “From the moment I walked into Allegro Optical I knew I would be dealt with efficiently and professionally. The shop itself is well equipped whilst retaining a reassuring intimacy, and all the staff are welcoming and friendly. Sheryl was very thorough and asked all the right questions regarding my specific vision issues. When I received my new glasses, the first thing I noticed was the weight of the frames, they’re as light as a feather! I was less concerned with the cosmetic appearance of my glasses but I acknowledge that they are very discreet. After initially experiencing some difficulty focusing on my printed sheet music, both at home and in my performance work, I returned to Sheryl. After some discussion, she decided on a solution to my problems. I have now tested my new glasses in both rehearsal and concert situations and I am delighted with the results. No more stooping down to focus on the dots and then lifting my head to see the conductor. After 2 years of wearing badly fitting frames in order to compensate for my specific issues, I can feel my confidence returning. I would highly recommend a visit to Allegro Optical to any musician seeking a solution to their vision problems. Sheryl and her team will do everything they can to help.”
We can see a bright future for this young cornet player
On this very wet September day, summer is now nothing but a memory. The kids are now all back at school and Autumn is with us, with the leaves turning to those beautiful reds and oranges.
The beginning of the Autumn term is always a busy time for opticians. It is now that we see a steady stream of our younger clients in need of new specs for the new school year.
Children’s eye tests
Many parents have their children’s vision tested in the couple of weeks prior to the return to school. Just to be sure that they have clear vision for the academic year ahead and that nothing untoward with their eyes has developed. Children’s eye tests are free on the NHS and if the need glasses those can be obtained free of charge too with the NHS optical voucher scheme.
We had a visit last week from one very musical family who had 2 young boys in need of spectacles. One of the young gentlemen is very fond of playing his cornet and loves making music. He’s not at all shy of giving us an impromptu performance.
While the family have come to us for some time, the youngest member came to collect his first pair of glasses.
As there was a strong family history of ametropia the youngest member of the family, who is just 11 months old, was tested at the hospital eye clinic and unsurprisingly he was prescribed corrective lenses.
The new glasses he collected will allow his vision to develop normally and as a result, he is unlikely to have any long-term effects.
Children’s eyesight develops from birth to around the age of five years. Good vision and eye health play a critical role in an infant’s development and children like everything else need to learn to see.
Poor eye health and vision problems can cause developmental delays in children so it is important to detect any problems early.
At Allegro Optical in Meltham, our team of qualified optometrists and dispensing opticians are on hand to help with all your child’s visual needs. Children’s eye tests are free on the NHS as are their spectacles if needed. To book your child’s eye test give us a call on 01484 907090
Xanthe has fun with our new pianoIf you haven’t heard Allegro Optical has a new piece of kit in our test room and I’m rather excited to have a go with it. If you, in fact, haven’t heard (you must be living under a rock if you haven’t) we’ve got a piano! Yes, you read that right, we have a piano and I for one am VERY! excited. Now before you get all excited thinking I can play you’d be sadly mistaken. As I have said in previous blogs when it comes to instrument my biggest achievement is playing Frere Jacques on the recorder but will that stop me having a go? Um no! in fact, I think my goal will be to make the most noise as possible…not that said noise will have any sort of rhythm or tune but hey you can’t win them all. So I for one will be thoroughly enjoying our new bit of kit. (may have to buy my mum some ear plugs though…)
Why a Piano??So why do we have a piano in an opticians test room, that’s rather an extravagant bit of décor. But be assured this is a rather important bit of kit, most instrument players can transport their instrument with them and will be able to use it to show our team what they need from their glasses to help them see the music. But unfortunately, pianos they aren’t so easy to transport (who knew?!) So we had the great idea to cater for our pianists by having a piano in our test room (aren’t we a resourceful bunch) I would like to point out though that quite frankly if my mum could fit a whole musical band of instruments into our test room she would and she would be the women to make it all fit. So if you’re a pianist then please pop into, Allegro Optical, at 1-3 Station Street, Meltham. It’s not far from Holmfirth or Huddersfield, and come show the team what you’ve got. Read more about how my Mum can help musicians at https://www.befund.org/blog/client-stories/a-vision-of-business-success-for-musical-duo
Whit Friday Marches
The fabulous spectacle that is the Whit Friday Brass Band competition, looms large on the 9th June and we have had quite a few new customers for our musicians’ glasses. These are to help musicians cope with the different distances required during playing and marching.
As we get older, our eyes are less flexible in the way they work and Allegro understand the issues involved and have developed solutions for each of our customers. If you are having this problem, you need to get in touch as we are running out of time.
One of our clients who, solo horn player at Emley Brass Band said,
“The marching glasses worked a treat. Seeing the ground and around me was fine. Seeing the music was also fine. Durham Miner’s gala next. Thanks so much for your help with this; it’s really made a difference to the experience.”
The ageing eye and playing
Ageing eyes can present problems for musicians which we can help solve. As musicians ourselves we understand the many vision problems musicians’ experience. We know that many mature musicians’ struggle to see both their sheet music and the conductor while playing their instrument. We also know that many opticians don’t really understand how to correct the musician’s vision clearly at the many visual distances required by the professional or keen amateur musicians. If you are a professional, it could even potentially shorten your career? So if you need help to see the music visit www.allegrooptical.oc.uk
Whit Friday Brass Band competition 9th June 2017
As a matter of interest, the team at Allegro will be acting as hosts to a Championship class Swiss Brass band over the whole weekend. As part of the Champion Brass team, we will be acting as guides on the night and hosting trips and events for the band.
We’ll see you there.
Remember, if you need help to see the music, call Meltham, near Huddersfield on 01484 90 70 90 now. Allegro Optical, helping you see the music.
We offer a dispensing optician service in both our practices in Greenfield, Saddleworth and Meltham, Holmfirth. Simply bring your spectacle prescription to us to see the amazing savings we can offer.
At Allegro Optical we can offer savings of up to 70% on high street prices. Alternatively, we give you the opportunity to get a Free second pair, or a pair of prescription sunglasses to the same prescription.
Choose either from our budget range, starting at just £39 for a complete pair of spectacles with single vision lenses, or our exclusive Allegro brand frames. For the more discerning, we have our exclusive ranges such as Nakamura, Murano, FYSH, and KLiiK. Allegro Optical offers frames to suit all tastes and budgets.
How does it work?
Bring a current prescription with you and an experienced member of the dispensing team can then advise on the lenses, coatings and any special finishes which may be needed.
To book your dispensing appointment pop into or call us on Greenfield 01457 353100 or Meltham 01484 907090
Ts&CS Apply, Limited period only
Fiona Mayo BA(Hons) Dip Mus, LRSM, LTCL, is a Cellist and Cello teacher. Like many mature musicians, she was struggling with the effects of presbyopia. Sight reading was a problem as was focusing on the music on the stand. She was also having problems seeing the music when teaching, as she uses a shared music stand.
A problem with sight reading
A long term varifocal wearer Fiona was experiencing difficulty with the narrow corridor and peripheral distortion provided by the spectacles her optician provided. Fiona needed to be able to see the conductor from as near as a few feet (when leading a cello section), to as far as the furthest distance on a concert stage(when providing playing support from the last desk of cellists in a big symphony orchestra).
She was finding particular difficulty when teaching, as music teachers often position the music stand in front of their pupils and then read the piece being played from the side. Although Fiona’s current lenses were a free form design this had become problematic, due to the narrower field of view provided by the lens corridor.
Seeing the music
We dispensed a pair of spectacles adapted to take into account Fiona’s various working distances and seating positions. Having collected and used the new spectacles Fiona said: “I have been wearing my new spectacles since I got them”. “I have worn them for:
- Cutting tiny wedges to fit mortices in the re-hairing of cello bows
- Teaching, from a single music stand, as well as sideways on from a stand placed in front of the pupil.
- Reading piano music to accompany pupils.
- Attending a String Quartet concert at Leeds College of Music and being able to see clearly.
The biggest surprise is that I no longer have to take the specs off for close work. It’s all looking fantastic. Thanks again for helping me and the service has been exceptional.”
Focusing at many different distances can pose real problems to musicians. Many struggle with the varying focal distances they work with. In fact, many musicians also suffer from postural problems as a result. With an understanding of the playing and seating positions of professional musicians, this problem can be overcome. The musicians working and playing life can easily be extended, due to the improvement that this solution provides. Many Musicians who experience focusing problems at different distances are unaware that there is a solution to the problem. Many optometrists and opticians either prescribe and dispense single vision lenses for the music stand or varifocals, which often exacerbate the problems due to the narrow corridor.
This case study has illustrated the variety of dispensing challenges that practitioners may face when a musician presents in practice and the individual.
Music is food for the brain
Did you know that playing music can actually improve memory and coordination and that this can actually alter your brain’s structure?
It is well known that School children who study music are more likely to perform much better in non-music subjects.
Also, did you know that taking piano lessons later in life has shown to have direct physical benefits in older adults?. These benefits include lowering blood pressure, reducing stress and increasing cognitive abilities.
At Allegro Optical we understand the importance of music. We also understand how important it is to be able to see the music and the conductor. We know that many musicians struggle to see both their music and the conductor. This can reduce their enjoyment or even mean early retirement for the professional musician.
If you are a musician struggling to see at those essential distance, why not give us a call on 0113 345 2272
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