Pianist and Timpanist Cheryl Bratkowski wanted to see the music
When playing timpani at the back of an orchestra, it can be very difficult to see the conductor at the front. Conductor’s batons are often a natural wood colour, which is hard to see, especially if a conductor wears a light-coloured shirt or jacket.
Cheryl Bratkowski like all good timpanists or percussion players has a superb sense of rhythm. She also has an instinct for drama and a feeling for the ensemble. However, sometimes she has to anticipate playing a wide variety of percussion instruments, relying on what she sees (the conductor’s beat, because she’s usually at the back of the stage where she experiences a slight time lag. If the conductor isn’t clear this makes things very difficult for Cheryl. Add to that, a problem with seeing the written music and Cheryl was really struggling.
Cheryl contacted Allegro Optical on the recommendation of two colleagues (a cellist and vioalaist) who had been delighted with the results their new glasses had given them. In addition to being a very talented Timpanist, Cheryl is also an accomplished pianist. She regularly accompanies students during their exams and again for this, she needs a wide field of view, as she is often playing and watching the student. Cheryl frequently also plays a Grand Piano and on these occasions, she uses an elevated music stand and has to glance frequently between the student, the examiner and see her the music.
An articulato solution
A high myope with pronounced astigmatism in her right eye Cheryl’s prescription is far from straightforward. The lens for her right eye will always carry a higher than average amount of distortion, so dispensing even freeform varifocal lenses would not have sufficed. Because of the many working distances and varied music stand distances, designing Cheryl’s music lenses took quite a bit of planning to ensure both eyes worked together and gave Cheryl the widest possible field of view. We ran a couple of models and eventually settled on a completely bespoke design, which gave her a wide field while maintaining plenty of depth at her music stand and a nice wide field for the conductor.
To complement her music glasses we dispensed Cheryl with a pair of Rodenstock Impression 1.67 lenses, with a solitaire Protect Coating to use on a daily basis. Cheryl has been using her music glasses for some time now. When asked about her glasses she said: “At last I can see the conductor, music and the indices on the timps-all with the same glasses!”
Musicians can present the Dispensing Optician with a great many challenges. Mainly because of their varied working distances and strict seating positions. However, adding Cheryl’s high prescription and pronounced astigmatism in one eye, things became even more challenging. But as musicians ourselves, we’re able to ask the right questions and interpret the answers to create a truly unique pair of lenses. Using our combined optical and musical skills addressed and resolved the many visual problems Cheryl encountered.
As a specialist independent optical team, we are able to produce individual solutions to suit many musicians and performers needs. We work closely with the surfacing and glazing laboratory to give our musician’s’ the very best solution available. This service is not available anywhere else and we approach the problem in a completely different way to any other Opticians’. By looking at the vision problems from the musician’s perspective we are able to solve their many visual challenges. Our unique lens designs enable us to design a solution to suit all types of performers and we have built up a considerable following of performing arts professionals as a result.
Award WInning Eye Care
In less than two years Allegro Optical Opticians has been shortlisted for the Yorkshire and Humberside Federation of Small Businesses, Celebrating Small Business Awards, for the Start-up Business of the Year category. Our Co-founder and Dispensing Optician Sheryl Doe has also reached the finals of the Opticians Awards Dispensing Optician Of The Year award, one of only three professionals to do so. We are proud winners of the Eaton Smith Business of the Month award, an award given in conjunction with the Mid Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce and The Department for International Trade. We have also been shortlisted in three categories of the 2018 National Best New Business Awards.
At Allegro Optical we are passionate about helping to correct the specific visual problems faced by musicians and performers. We provide a range of tailor-made solutions and services including our on-site vision assessments. Using specialist optical technology our team of professionals can visit any musical institution to help those affected by reduced visual clarity. Our team has built up a broad client base, from professional classical musicians to members of well-known brass bands and many keen amateurs. We have also helped music teachers, performers, TV presenters and many keen amateur musicians of all genres. We love helping musicians to see their music again and in turn extending their playing careers.
If you are a musician and you are struggling with your vision call us on 01484 907090.
Helping Ruth see the music
Just think about it, you’ve had perfect vision all your life, then things start to go wrong. Slowly at first and nothing to serious, but over time your vision starts to deteriorate. It happens to most of us, those under 40 will find out in due course. We all adapt by using reading glasses from the opticians or varifocals or bifocals or some of us resort to using off the shelf ready readers, or magnifiers. But most people find a solution of sorts.
However, it isn’t that easy if you are a musician who relies on their sight to read and play music for a living. String Bassist Ruth Ker was experiencing these symptoms of presbyopia and it was really beginning to get in the way of her playing. Ruth was becoming very frustrated at not being able to see. A Cellist colleague Fiona Mayo recommended that she contact us at Allegro Optical Opticians. Allegro Optical Opticians are specialist musicians’ opticians based in Meltham, near Holmfirth, Huddersfield and Saddleworth, arguably one of the most musical parts of the country. Ruth and Fiona play together quite often and Fiona had recently got some musicians glasses from us and was delighted with them. Ruth said she had “gone from having brilliant eyesight to completely rubbish”! Ruth explained to us that she plays the double bass and would be interested to get some glasses from us.
Focusing on the music stand and the conductor
So we arranged a consultation with Ruth, does have very good vision with no refractive error for the distance at all. She did, however, struggle to see the music on the music stand. Music for large bass instruments does tend to be fairly large and that had been her saving grace up to now. All bass players tend to have their music stand a good 120cm in front of them so the print needs to be quite large. Ruth was managing by moving the stand away, but there is a limit to how far away you can move it without it interfering with playing.
Ruth plays with both orchestral groups and Jazz so her working distances are quite varied and this gave us some challenges when designing her lenses. We dispensed Ruth with a pair of adapted multifocal lenses, as even freeform digital varifocals would not have met her positional requirements. Ruth didn’t take to her new lenses straight away, and she is the first to admit that “They took some getting used to”. We’ve had quite a few tweaks and frame adjustments to get them how Ruth liked them and there has been a prolonged period of retraining Ruth’s eyes. Now she has adjusted to wearing glasses Ruth is using them every day and finds they are really helping.
A musician’s opinion
When asked about her glasses Ruth said “I hate having to wear glasses, however, my new glasses are vastly better than anything my usual optician had been able to make for me. Sheryl has been incredibly patient and persistent.” There are a great many Musicians who experience focusing problems. They struggle with all the different distances required of their profession and are unaware that there is a solution to the problem. Many optometrists or opticians either prescribe and dispense single vision lenses for the music stand, leaving everything else blurred. Or they suggest varifocals which often exacerbate the problems due to the narrow corridor, or they recommend office lenses which give a reduced working distance.
Understanding a musician’s visual needs
At Allegro Optical Opticians we understand the many visual requirements placed on different musicians. As a result we prescribe a variety of our own lenses designed specifically to suit their needs. We either adapt existing lens designs or we will create a lens design especially for the client to create a perfect optical solution. We understand the variety of dispensing challenges that practitioners may face when a musician presents in practice, but as musicians ourselves we are able to meet their individual needs perfectly.
If you are a musician who has problems seeing the music give us a call at Allegro Optical Opticians on 01484 907090 for advice or to book a consultation.
Allegro has another new friend from Harrogate Phil’
Viola player Gillian Charters from Knaresborough came to Allegro Optical through our connections with the Harrogate Philharmonic Orchestra. Harrogate Phil’ is a semi-professional chamber orchestra based in North Yorkshire. We have helped a number of string players within the orchestra and they recommended us to Gillian.
Gillian is a myopic long-term varifocal wearer, but she was finding the middle distance area of her current lenses very restrictive. Particularly at the distance of her music stand. Gillian was wearing a very good varifocal lens design by Zeiss, a well-respected lens manufacturer. Unfortunately, the lenses still didn’t provide a wide enough field of view at the required distances.
Many orchestral musicians often share a music stand and are required to read the music from one side. When wearing varifocal lenses this becomes challenging, as they are set up and designed to give clear vision while looking straight ahead. Violinists and viola players present particular dispensing challenges, as they play with their instrument under their chin and their head slightly to one side.
An elegant solution
An occupational lens design could have corrected her vision for playing. But she would have been unable to drive in them, so that was out of the question. We dispensed Gillian with our adapted progressive lens design with a much wider field than that offered by her current lenses. The new lens design gives her a wide central field and much clearer vision to her left and right. The lens design maintains good distance vision and her reading area is wider than in her previous lenses.
We took into account Gillians head and playing position and the offset position of the music stand allowing her to play with ease.
Clarity in Music and vision
Gillian collected her new glasses and sunglasses and was thrilled. She commented on how wide her field of view was in the new lenses.
Gillian said “It was such a joy to come to an optician that understood my needs as a viola player. As an amateur musician, I have enough things to bring along to rehearsals – without remembering additional glasses! I can now use the same glasses for playing as for driving, work, gardening, yoga and canvassing!.”
An optician faces many challenges when dispensing a Musician. Both regarding their working distances and their seating and head position. By asking pertinent questions and with a certain amount of knowledge of the playing set up, we can resolve these issues. Allegro Optical is a specialist optician and is very familiar with correcting musicians vision at all distances. Thanks to our unique approach and cutting edge lens designs we can produce individual solutions to suit their needs, which are not available elsewhere.
We approach the vision problems from the musician’s perspective and we have built up a considerable following as a result. At Allegro Optical we are very passionate about the complex visual needs of musicians and presenters. We can provide a range of tailor-made solutions using specialist technology for those affected by reduced visual clarity.
Our clients are wide ranging, from professional classical musicians to keen amateur musicians from all genres. We also help those who have taken up a new instrument later in life.