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.