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Clearly Harping on

Meltham’s Musician’s Optician

It 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 Evans Harpist Musicians glasses Allegro Optical 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 solution

Rhian 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 lenses

Rhian Evans professional harpist musicians lenses Allegro optical the musicians optician Rhian 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. Rhian Harpist 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.”  
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The struggles of an adult learner

Learning to play an instrument later in life

At Allegro Optical we often read all sorts of articles. Both in the optical or musical press. We peruse all sorts online to keep up to date with our chosen industries. It was while I was doing this that I came across this interesting blog on the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music’s website.

The author Paul discusses the challenges of taking up a new instrument later in life. As I started playing my cornet at the age of 49 this article was of interest to me.

In the article Paul says that he had always sung by ear and that he tended to see written music as only a general guide to the ups and downs of pitch and volume! He then goes onto to say that he now sees the music with fresh understanding. Paul has got to grips with the basics such as understanding how key and time signatures work.

He goes onto to give some very sound advice to anyone who considers taking up a new instrument later in life. Paul warns about how much slower progress is compared to a younger person. The need to overcome pounding heart or tense fingers and the embarrassment we older players experience when we struggle with music that our fellow teenage players can just play easily.

Presbyopia and the musician

One thing Paul doesn’t mention is how ageing vision (Presbyopia) can hinder us when we play an instrument in later life. I see from Pauls picture that he is myopic and looking at his eye position I think he is probably wearing either varifocal lenses or possibly single vision lenses, with a focal length calculated for the music stand. This is perfectly fine for a beginner, or even when practising. However, things tend to go astray when playing in a group, particularly when needing to see the conductor and the music on the stand.

This is something I struggled with, I could read music when I took up the cornet, but I couldn’t read it on the stand, to find the right position in my varifocals I had to sit in a very awkward position, so I set the stand lower. That was fine for a while, but whenever I looked up at Dave our conductor, I then couldn’t find the right place on the music when I looked back. I tried new varifocal lenses and occupational lenses, to no avail.

Being an optician by trade I wasn’t going to let this beat me, and it didn’t. As a result of this discovery, several years ago now, I have gone on to help many musicians, friends and acquaintances. I find everyone requires a different solution and we tailor make our lenses to suit the player. A cellist, for instance, needs a completely different optical solution to a Harpist, Violinist, Organist, or a Trombonist.

Why we are different

We take into account seating position, (in the ensemble), playing position, instrument, prescription, age and the position of the music stand and conductor. We even take into account that many of these change according to location and venue.

In a way, I am so glad that I struggled early on, because as a result of my struggles, getting to grips with a new instrument in my late forties, Allegro Optical was born. We are the only opticians, that we know of that helps musicians who are struggling to see the music. As a result, we have helps musicians, presenters, dancers and music teachers from all over the world to see the music.

If you are a musician who is struggling with their vision, we can help. You may feel your musical ability is being called into question as a result of your deteriorating vision. Many musicians come to us considering retiring from professional playing completely and face giving up the thing they love. There is absolutely no need to do this, with the correct lenses, we can extend your playing life, and help you to see the music.

For more information contact www.allegrooptical.co.uk or call us in Meltham, Holmfirth, near Huddersfield on 01484 907090 or in Leeds on 0113 345 2272

Post by Sheryl Doe