Ballet Dancer and Optician form Harmonious Bond
A clear visionIt was during this first meeting that Sam mentioned that she was having problems with her contact lenses. Sam is a very active lady, in addition to being the co-founder of Curel she is an independent dance artist. She is also Head of Dance for Flamingo Chicks, an inclusive dance school that provides opportunities for disabled children to enjoy ballet alongside their friends. As if that’s not enough Sam is an Associate Artist for English National Ballet, and she teaches at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance in Leeds. So as you can see she is very busy and as result spectacles aren’t really an option. So Sheryl suggested that Sam come to the practice for a consultation.
Sam visited Allegro Optical in Meltham and we carried out a sight test and contact lens check-up. We found a large increase in Sam’s prescription, particularly her astigmatism. Sam’s astigmatism had increased so much she was now out of the range for standard and toric (astigmatic) lenses. We had no option than to source the bespoke soft contact lenses for her. Sam collected them a few weeks later and tried them for a fortnight when she returned to the practice. Sam was very happy with her vision in the lenses but felt her eyes were a little dry. As with all yearly soft lens they are slightly thicker than a regular silicone hydrogel lens. We resolved the comfort issue by using lubricants and changing Sams contact lens solution.
A perfect partnershipThanks to the improvement to her vision provided by her new contact lenses and their extended wear time Sam can now get on with her busy life without worrying about her eyesight. She has also invested in a fabulous pair of glasses for contact lens rest days. With frames from our FYSH range from Denmark and high index free-form single vision lenses Sam’s vision is now fully corrected. She also has a gorgeous pair of prescription sunglasses thanks to our amazing free second pair offer, now Sam is ready for anything. When asked about her experience with Allegro Optical Sam said “Huge thank you to Allegro Optical for your help sorting my contact lenses and finding me some lovely new glasses! Will be recommending you!” While all this was going on Sam and Sheryl also got to know each other’s businesses very well. As a result, we now always recommend Curel to our corporate eyecare clients to help them, help their teams reduce stress and sickness in the workplace.
What can you do when your whole career is threatened by a medical condition?When a musician suffers a medically threatening condition, no one realises what it means to potentially lose that vital part of your life your passion, your very being. ClassicFM has a heart moving blog all about one musicians’ battle with a painful neuromuscular condition which disrupted her career as a musician. Cor anglais player Davida Scheffers gave an emotional performance of ‘Schindler’s List’. Despite her fear that she might never be able to play with a professional orchestra again, Davida’s dream was to play with the Netherlands Symphony Orchestra. Last year, she managed it, read more at http://www.classicfm.com/music-news/videos/soloist-cries-in-schindlers-list/
Presbyopia and the musicianWhile we accept that ageing vision, or Presbyopia as it is known, is nowhere near as serious a condition it can threaten many musicians careers. Presbyopia is a form of progressive long-sightedness caused by the loss of elasticity of the lens of the eye, occurring typically in middle and old age. Very few of us will escape presbyopia, even if you have never had a vision problem before. Even people who are short-sighted will notice that their near vision blurs when they wear their usual spectacles or contact lenses to correct their distance vision. This can be problematic for a musician who will find their vision at the music stand distance severely compromised. Up until now, there have been no completely satisfactory solutions available to the musician. Some Opticians prescribe varifocals, however, the area of the lens for music stand is much to narrow. Even in the new freeform digital lenses, it’s a real compromise, forget sharing a stand! Some Opticians will suggest Computer or Office lenses, however, if you play in an orchestra you won’t be able to see your conductor clearly.
At Allegro Optical Opticians we specialise in helping presbyopic and older musicians to see the music.As musicians ourselves we understand the many visual requirements placed on musicians. As a result, we have developed a selection of lenses designed and dispensed specifically to suit individual musicians needs. Creating a solution especially for the client, providing 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.
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.
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