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Request[AMA Request] Someone Who has won the McDonald's Monopoly Jackpot Prize/s

Mar 25th 2018 by Niight_Hunterr • 50 Questions • 6900 Points

My short video for proof: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDbem9iK48Y

Hello! I’m Dr Paul Whittaker OBE – a profoundly deaf Musician from the UK. I was born deaf, but I can play the piano and the organ. I have a Music degree from Oxford University and 2 honorary degrees. In 2007, The Queen gave me an OBE for services to music.

For 27 years, I ran a charity called Music And The Deaf encouraging deaf people, and those who live and work with them, to take part in music. I ran workshops, worked with orchestras, choirs, dance companies, theatres, to encourage them to engage with deaf people, and gave a lot of speeches about my life as a deaf Musician. 3 years ago, I left that job to start a freelance career. I still work in music and deafness but most of my work is motivational speaking.

For many years, I’ve been passionate about signed song and recently set up www.SiBSL.co.uk – Songs in British Sign Language – to try and raise standards and awareness of this art form. I film a performance of a song along with a detailed teaching video, explaining why I use certain signs and how I’ve translated the song.

For 26 years, I’ve also worked in the theatre interpreting major music shows such as Les Miserables, Cats, Phantom Of The Opera, West Side Story, and many others. I’ve also signed Opera and worked with various choirs and at the BBC Proms. In 2010, I signed the Sondheim at 80 Prom and had the pleasure of meeting Stephen Sondheim and working with people like Judi Dench.

AMA about my life as a deaf musician, signed song, access issues – anything related to music and deafness.

Q:

In the summer of 2016 me and four of my friends won the second top prize of a of a trip to Las Vages for 4 people.

None of us spent a unusual amount of money but I did go to mcD's more than I normally would. We had two of the tokens we needed and actually my friend found the last on on a cup that he saw in the bin that still has a token on it.

Once we realised we had all the tokens we brought them up to the counter and the guys behind the till started going nuts and none of them could believe someone actually won. Basically all we had to do was enter the code of each token online and follow the instructions that were emailed to us. It took about two weeks after claiming the prize for McDonald's to get back to us and verify that we had won for real.

A:

A, how?

B, link to your favorite composition, please.


Q:

That's actually amazing and lucky, did you enjoy your trip? Also did you manage to make extra money in Vegas?

A:

A: I rely entirely on the printed score to understand music. I cannot identify what voice is singing, what instrument is being played, melody, harmony, form - anything - but once I see it on the page, I know in my head exactly what it sounds like.

I would say this is linked to playing the piano. The piano is such a big, physical instrument with a wide pitch range; when you press a key down, you feel the hammer hit the string, the vibrations travel up your arm and every note feels different. It's easy to relate the note you depress to the one printed on the musical stave/score and therefore easy to relate what you see to what you feel.

I say "easy" as I never recall having any trouble learning music. I started playing the piano when I was 5 and, over the years, have tried playing many other instruments so I have some idea of their tone, timbre, etc.

There are some kinds of music which are harder for me to access, such as Jazz and Electronic as this cannot be written down and therefore I can't read and understand it.

B: To answer your second question, my favourite piece of music depends on what mood I'm in! I often think about what recordings I would take to that mythical desert island, and there are a few pieces that would always make the list:

Carilion - Herbie Flowers and Ian Gomm (Recorded by SKY on their first album) Ave verum corpus, K. 618 - Mozart West Side Story - Bernstein

I am a massive James MacMillan fan - I think he's a genius!


Q:

I won an apple pie and an ice cream yesterday. I'm still riding on a high from my fortune.

A:

A, thank you for such a detailed answer. I think I kind of understand. I have zero musical talent besides being able to whistle a bit. But you helped me understand a bit what it's like to " be a musician".

B, I wasn't clear in my first B. I meant your favorite composition of your own.


Q:

Ahahaha, you want to add a porridge or hash brown to the list ?

A:

As I'm not really a composer and have written very little stuff that I would share with anyone, I don't actually have a favourite of mine. There is one little piece I wrote for my chapel choir when I was at University which I like but that's about it, haha!


Q:

Still hunting for the elusive Marvin Gardens that would have given a 12 year old a brand new Dodge Viper.

A:

The French musique concrete composer (and synth pioneer) Pierre Henry designs synthesizers, to produce sounds he may or may not use in the future. Each of the designs is accompanied by a drawing of the sine wave of the sound it's intended to produce. Could you perhaps study the typical patterns produced by instruments you're familiar with to give yourself a basis for comparison, then infer what electronic instruments sound like from that? (Source: Partially deaf music journalist who had tea with Pierre Henry)


Q:

I am hoping for the second blue piece, but it's unlikely

A:

Definitely something I could look into, though I admit that my knowledge of physics is extremely limited, so I may struggle to understand some of Pierre Henry's designs, but I'll have a look into this. Thank you.


Q:

My father in law won a xbox360 some years ago. He bought guitar hero and didn’t really play it after a couple months. Used it for a DVD player.

A:

In regards to the tones "feeling different" how does that relate to a synthesized instrument vs. an actual piano?


Q:

Any prize is a good prize from these multinational corporations

A:

They are completely different. Every 'real' piano you play feels different whereas most synthesised instruments I've tried feel exactly the same. The latter are not alive to me at all whereas acoustic instruments have their own character and personality.


Q:

When I was in college before the Internet, they had a scratch off trivia game. During Christmas, I didn't go home so me and about 8 guys ate at Mcdonalds for all three meals. There were only about 30 questions, so we just went around and grabbed the wrongly scratched ones off the tables until we had all 30. When we got a game piece, we'd look it up from our set, scratch the right answer off, and you'd get a free meal at the next meal. They also had to give you another entry, so as you can see, we only bought the first meal and then ate for free from then on.

They changed the questions every three days, so our luck ran out when the manager noticed what we had been doing and started cleaning the used game pieces off the tables immediately.

No problemo, we went to the library before we scratched them off, and to our surprise, they were taking all their questions out of three trivia books that were in the library. We checked out all three books and ate free the rest of the two weeks we had off.

A:

So would this be similar to Beethoven when he went deaf, and relying on vibration? I imagine the experience being similar, but never having heard the actual sounds..kudos to you man, that's rather mindblowing! Is there no tech available or in the pipeline that you know of that might make it accessible? Do cochlear implants not work? Anyway, you're an inspiration man, like someone who's denser than water but swims the Channel, has no arms but takes up shot put, damn, I have no good analogy, like a guy who does what you do. Inspiring, makes me think I should do more with what I have. Hope the road ahead works out curiously wonderful for you.


Q:

That's a great plan wow free food

A:

Love your comments, thank you so much. I don't feel an implant would work for me at all. I like my current curiously wonderful life. Hope yours is equally curiously wonderful!


Q:

Kinda related I guess, but I worked with a guy that used to work at the factory that printed the monopoly pieces. Whenever they printed boardwalk, security escorted the piece out. I believe they already know which city they send it to.

A:

Hey!

How did you get into music?

Also how do you describe the feeling of music?

Also congratulations and I think you are cool! X


Q:

You'd expect them knowing but security wow.

A:

Thank you very much!

Even though I was born deaf, music was always around in the house when I was growing up. My Mum played the piano and my parents had the radio on or played records nearly all the time, so I was aware of this phenomenon which affected people in profound ways. Perhaps if I had grown up in an environment where there was lots of art or dance, I may have pursued that path instead!

Finding a teacher was often a challenge as they were unsure of how to communicate and to explain music to someone without hearing. I always rely on what I call the 'played example' where the teacher showed me what they wanted me to do, then I watched and copied it.

Describing the feeling of music is a tough one to answer. Sometimes, I can attend a performance of a piece of music and feel that I'm going to burst because it's so overpowering; at other times, it makes me happy or sad or makes me cry. Music can bring people together, and divide people, can be used as a political tool, can be experienced alone or in a crowd. You can have several thousand people attending one physical performance of a piece of music, but everyone goes away having responded to it differently. That's the power of music! For me, it's something that I just have to do and I can't imagine life without it.


Q:

So I didn’t win the jackpot, and this is going back several years, but in the U.K. we used to have “experience vouchers” for websites that you could win like £500 towards whatever you wanted.

  1. I was working in television/film industry at the time, and I ate at a lot of different McDonald’s, probably had nearly every space filled but for those last ones. I always buy large meals and therefore got like 6 stickers per large meal deal, I didn’t spent more than £50 I reckon though.

  2. I did receive the prize, and even though the prize had a 12month use by limit, I managed to extend it to 24months and it paid for a “mini-moon” after our wedding in 2012.

  3. When you win you call the number on the game sheet and verify some personal details and then they ask you to confirm the stickers and codes. They ask which McDonald’s you ate at, how many times, where any donated to me etc...once I’d jumped through a couple hoops they asked me to post the stickers and Game board to them recorded delivery and take a picture of me posting it, was a weird request. I just sent it insured and took a video of me sealing the stickers in the envelope. Oh also worth noting, once you win and redeem the voucher, I couldn’t win anything else above that prize, which was either a New Mini I believe at the time or £250,000 top prize.

  4. I won £500’s worth of experience vouchers for buyagift.co.uk in 2010 and bought a spa break in Scotland... Loch-Fyne Hotel

  5. I don’t have the prize anymore as it was a long time ago, they did send me a really nice congratulations letter and some paperwork, but nothing worth keeping. I still have the booking documentation from buyagift though in an email.

A:

Out of interest, if you're attending a performance, but do not hear the music, what is it that's affecting you? I can understand the physicality of playing music you can't hear and engaging with it, but watching someone else play but not being physically linked to the music, how does that work?


Q:

That's actually amazing, hope you had a great experience

A:

Part of the attraction of attending a performance is sharing that experience with other people. Being at a live performance also exposes you to the full harmonic range and a greater sense of vibration. I enjoy watching people actually playing music and can pick up differences in interpretation from watching them. Aside from the Sondheim at 80 Prom in 2010, which I signed, the most profound live music experience was a performance of James MacMillan's 'Seven Last Words' at Birmingham Town Hall by Britten Sinfonia and chorus 2 years ago. It was just phenomenal.


Q:

Hello Dr. Whittaker. Thank you for doing this AMA. As a CoDA (also from the UK), it is really wonderful to see a member of the Deaf Community spreading positive information about the fact that people who are deaf really can do anything that a hearing person can do. Apart from hear, of course.

You mentioned we could ask questions about access issues. What kind of access issues do you face in your work and/or personal life? Is there anything you would want to highlight to hearing communities as a particular issue that you (and other deaf people face)?

A:

Hello, many thanks for your message and question. As we both know, deaf people can do anything that hearing people can do, apart from hear!

I'm fortunate in having a decent Access To Work agreement and have good interpreter support, but that doesn't stop me from occasionally wanting to pick up a phone and have a conversation with someone, or from wishing that I could listen to the radio. Generally speaking - I'm told - the level of conversion and debate on radio is far higher than it is on TV.

Probably the biggest access barriers are to do with every day leisure and entertainment. Things like not being able to go to the cinema or the theatre when you feel like it, but having to find when there is a captioned or signed performance. That restriction of choice is frustrating, especially if you're wanting to go with friends. Within that, there is the issue of whether the interpreter is actually any good, whether you can understand them, or whether the captions will actually work in the cinema.

Technology has improved the lives of deaf people in many ways and there is certainly far more choice and more opportunities than when I was young, but there is still a long way to go before deafness and deaf people are seen and accepted.

What still concerns me greatly is the quality and provision of deaf education in the UK. Teachers Of The Deaf often do a sterling job under difficult circumstances, but integration certainly does not work for all deaf children, and many deaf children fail to achieve their potential. Expectations can often be quite low and although this is not current political thinking, my view is that there should always be a place for schools for the deaf.

Greater recognition of BSL and having it as a curriculum subject in schools would make a vast difference, but we then have the issue of who would actually teach it as there aren't enough good BSL teachers around.

The amount of poor quality so called "BSL" signed song videos on YouTube and other social media is one of my bug bears. It's so disheartening reading glowing comments about how marvellous these videos are when they don't respect deaf people or their language, and shows just how ignorant a lot of people are about sign language.

What's your view on all this?


Q:

Hi!

I am glad to read that you have good ATW support. It seems increasingly rare these days.

I know exactly what you mean regarding accessing other platforms for debate and discussion. Televised debates are indeed often so limited in topics and depth. One area that has been of great interest to me personally in the last couple of years have been podcasts. I listen to many different podcasts and regularly find myself wishing that there were more hours in the day for me to sit and transcribe some of the discussions and debates so I can share them with my Mother.

One frustrating thing for me over the years has been the attitude of people when it comes to watching subtitled films in the cinema. On one (very rare) occasion, Mum had the opportunity to attend a subtitled film showing. I was gobsmacked to learn that one person started complaining during the showing about the fact that the film was subtitled. The individual went out and complained to the cinema management about it. It was clearly advertised as a subtitled screening..... It's not the only occasion I've heard of where something like that has happened.

I worked for a few years in a charity providing practical support to deaf people across the UK. I met and worked with a couple of Teachers of the Deaf and was horrified to learn about the conditions they have to work under. Massive caseloads across huge areas mixed with cuts to these provisions by local authorities...... It was clear to me how demoralising it must be to have to provide such an essential service in the face of such adversity. Unfortunately my concerns about education in the UK at the moment are not just limited to provisions for deaf children. I have seen increasing numbers of stories in the news and from various other sources about the depth of cuts to education and how this is impacting on students who need extra support to follow the standard curriculum. I hope, for the sake of the current generation of school-age children, that we see major political change in the UK sooner rather than later.

My opinion is that you touched on a wider debate about differentiating between BSL and SSE re your comment about signed songs. However, what I struggle with most when it comes to signed songs is that (mostly) signers only focus on lyrics. I went through the 'usual' teenage phase of loud rock music and over time Mum learnt to identify the sounds of different instruments (e.g. guitar, drums, bass guitar) from how the vibrations felt. As far as music goes, there is so much more to communicate than just lyrics.

A:

Absolutely agree with your comment about people complaining at subtitle screenings. That's probably why cinemas always show them at stupid times when most deaf people can't go.

Yes, most signed songs only focus on lyrics rather than just music. Hopefully that's not an area that I fall down in!


Q:

What's your favorite genre? Deaf metal?

A:

Ha ha. No, it's not, but even if I was exposed to metal, the volume level fortunately couldn't damage my hearing anymore than it already is.


Q:

What influenced you to start playing music even though you couldn't hear it? Was Beethoven's loss of hearing and later works an influence on you?

A:

Despite my deafness, I was aware of a lot of music going on in the home, and at age 5 decided I wanted to play the piano. 2 years later, I joined the local church choir and through that developed an interest in the organ, which I started to learn when 12. At 14, I took charge of my own choir. Originally I considered a career as a concert pianist or organist, but couldn’t really be bothered to practice enough (!) so eventually decided to aim for a University place to read for a music degree. Over a 2-year period I applied to 12 Universities and was rejected by all of them because of my deafness :(

I wouldn't say that Beethoven's loss of hearing and his later works were an influence on me at all. The onset of his deafness was gradual so he had the benefit of hearing music when he was young; whereas I was born deaf so don't have that advantage.

Having said that, I do feel there are some strange ideas about how Beethoven's deafness affected him and I wrote an article about this a few years ago. If you want to see it, let me know.


Q:

You mention how you can feel the vibrations from a piano. Is there anything similar when playing an organ?

A:

It is harder playing an organ than a piano because the tactile sensation is far less. Also quite often, the organ console is separate from the actual workings of the instrument so you have additional acoustic barriers to manage.

With an older organ, the action of the instrument may be quite slow anyway, so there is a delay between pressing a key down and a sound coming out of a pipe. That's just one of those things that you have to learn to deal with! Playing an organ with tracker action, where you have a kind of double pressing of the key (like on a harpsichord) is fun because it's incredible tactile.

Linked to this question - I've always had problems playing electric pianos or keyboards due to an almost total lack of tactile sensation and numerous occasions have been playing away very happily without realising there is no sound being produced whatsoever.


Q:

Your sight-reading skills must have been very well developed at 12 to start playing organ!

A:

My sight reading skills were very well developed by the time I was 8. The challenge with the organ was reading 3 staves of music at once rather than just 2 for the piano.


Q:

Regarding the Universities rejecting you due to deafness, was this because they didn't know what to do with you, or because they wouldn't/couldn't alter the ear training requirements for you?

For my undergraduate degree the ear training was intense, and a huge part of the program. We had to pass a 64 Interval test, sight singing, and dictation exams to even stay in the program. The music department at my University had the highest non-completion rate because people couldn't pass the 64 Interval Test, so counselors would actually discourage people from being a music major. I imagine most of those things would have been difficult for you, except perhaps for sight singing?

Did you try any music conservatories instead? They tend to be less concerned with the above and more centered on performance practice.

A:

I suspect it was a bit of both. No doubt they were scared of how to cope with a deaf musician. I'm sure the aural requirements were part of it, too.

I took one diploma exam where they completely refused to change the aural test in any way and only backed down after a media campaign gave them bad publicity. I feel the situation would not happen now but I'm not always comfortable with the alternative arrangements that are sometimes made for deaf candidates. We want the same diploma/degree qualifications as anyone else - not a lesser version of it. There are other ways of assessing someones musicality and musicianship aside from aural tests.

I didn't apply for music conservatories because I wanted a music degree with more focus on academic and theoretical work than on performing.


Q:

Is there any feedback loop that you use when playing music to make sure you are keeping time/pitch? Can you feel any vibrations that help you keep on track or is it just a matter of accurately transcribing sheet music into movement for you?

A:

I guess this question is linked to signed song. I don't use any equipment apart from my hearing aids, but can only translate a song when I've seen the sheet music, learned it, and memorised it. I then spend time going through the song with my interpreters, checking timing, multi-tracking, and other musical elements. Once I've completed that process, the recording of a song is pretty well implanted in my brain, though I still have to rely on vibrations to follow it when performing.

On occasions, I do keep an eye on my interpreter so that they can mouth lyrics if I get out of time but this doesn't often happen. Rather, I mentally fast forward to certain chords and when those specific vibrations hit me, I know I'm in time.


Q:

Have you ever done ASL or met someone with ASL? You mention BSL.

What's the hardest piece you played?

Any instrument you tried, but gave up on it?

A:

I spent almost 2 months in the USA back in 1992 and picked up a fair bit of ASL at that point, but have forgotten most of it now. The differences between ASL and BSL are profound and I admit that I find it hard to follow as I'm not exposed to it enough.

The hardest piece I've ever played is probably anything by Bach! I think Bach was an absolute genius but have never enjoyed playing his music in public, maybe because every other Organist thinks they know how to play Bach better than you do! There are some incredibly difficult contemporary pieces which I have never bothered learning, but may one day get around to.

One instrument that I'd love to learn is the cello, but the only instrument I've ever tried and given up on is the violin. I just found it uncomfortable to play, my fingers are used to being on a keyboard not a fingerboard, and the sound I produced was extremely painful for others!


Q:

What's your favorite book?

A:

Ooo that's a hard one. I don't have a favourite book, but one of the best books I've read recently is The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce which really made me think about the way people listen to and talk about music.


Q:

How you doing doc ?

A:

I am doing fine, thanks. Hope you are too. As I'm not a medical Doctor, please don't ask me to treat you if there is anything wrong!


Q:

Music treats the soul though, doesn't it?

A:

Absolutely.


Q:

What would you recommend for a profound existential torpor?

A:

I need to think about this one... so much music to choose from.


Q:

Hi Paul. I'm a CODA in the UK (you might know my mum, she lives in Reading and had her own theatre company in the 90s called Co-Sign and directed Titus Andronicus in BSL in Bolton - her initials are CT).

My question is - when you're doing stage interpreting what do you use as your timing clues when you're not able to see the actors? Have you got a screen prompt, do you follow the conductor?

I'm a big Sondheim fan, so good work on doing the Sondheim at 80 gig! Have you seen Hamilton? That would be a NIGHTMARE to interpret :D

Bonus question: what is your favourite sign?

A:

Hello hello (and best wishes to your Mum).

Doing that Sondheim Prom was the best night of my life, but there was a lot of pressure. No, I haven't seen Hamilton yet.

When I do stage interpreting, I memorise the entire script, score and blocking. Obviously I find shows with dialogue really hard, so I tend to remember how long a speech is, where the pauses are, and then match my signing to the pauses. I've rely very much on the conductor and last year used a screen prompt for the first time. That was a massive help but I felt my performance lacked something through relying on a feed rather than my own memory.

I do very little stage work these days but do miss it.

I don't have a favourite sign. What's yours?


Q:

Have you ever composed any music? I imagine it would hard as you were born deaf.

A:

I know how to compose and once or twice I have written short pieces for people I know, but would not call myself a composer. I prefer arranging music, especially for voices, as this challenges my imagination, but it's always easier writing or arranging for people or ensembles that you know rather than for strangers.

I don't find it hard to do simply because I've had a lot of musical training and have a lot of theoretical and academic knowledge. I admit that it would be nice to actually hear the performance taking place and experience the effect of sound in that specific building, but simply because I've never been able to hear, I don't spend any time getting upset or worrying about it.


Q:

Do you have interest in other genres of music than classical? Do you dig hip hop or jazz?

A:

My background is classical but I enjoy some other types as well - rock, pop, some traditional jazz (preferably vocal). Not really into hip hop and not at all into rap (but that style places more importance on lyrics than music I guess.)


Q:

I'm a musician and my uncle is a hard of hearing musician, so I appreciate all you've done. Thank you.

My question is: is your full title "Dr. Sir Paul" or "Sir Dr. Paul"? Very important, need to know.

A:

Thank you for your comment. I'd be interested to know what your uncle plays and how he copes with his hearing loss.

I have not been knighted, I am just Paul Whittaker OBE, but you can call me Paul.


Q:

How did you like working with Vin Diesel in the Fast and the Furious movies?

A:

You should see my driving skills. I can sign and drive at the same time (don't try this at home).


Q:

Hello Paul, I hope I'm not too late...

Have you done much work with people who have aquired hearing loss? I'm asking because of my Dad; he has been hard-of-hearing all his life but it has been deteriorating at a constant rate. Listening to music has always been one of his greatest passions, but recently he stopped listening to music because he says he can't really enjoy it anymore. I'm really saddened by this and wondered if people like him can find other ways to enjoy the music they love so much?

PS. nice to see a fellow person from Huddersfield!

A:

Hello fellow Huddersfield person!

I have worked off and on for 30 years with people who have an acquired hearing loss. So often they need much more support and encouragement and really struggle to adapt to having hearing loss. Hearing aids will only give a limited amount of help and, sadly, I know of many people like your Dad who stop listening to music because they say they can't enjoy it anymore.

If you wish to email me, then perhaps we could meet up and I could also meet your Dad to try and offer help and advice - [email protected]


Q:

Did you ever experience bullying because of your deafness? How did you learn to speak English without being able to hear?

A:

There were occasions when I was bullied at middle school and secondary school, but I couldn't say if this was linked to my deafness or not. I never told anyone about it at the time, but now realise that I should've done.

I've encountered discrimination because of my deafness on various occasions, especially when I was applying to University to read for a music degree, and was told "Deaf people can't be musicians". Another occasion was when I was taking a music diploma exam on the organ and was not allowed to take anyone with me for a practice session: I need someone there to tell me if the balance between manuals is okay and if I'm playing for the acoustics of the room. The examining body then failed me for not playing for the acoustics of the room, which was rather annoying.

When I was very young, the use of sign language in education was banned, but because I have an older sister who is deaf, my parents knew some of the problems and pitfalls of bringing up a deaf child. I always loved reading so developed a big vocabulary at a young age. I learned words by being taught them phonetically. If I mispronounced something, I was corrected. I don't recall ever having speech therapy or finding it hard to talk (and I can talk a lot!), but nowadays, if I come across a word that I am unsure of how to pronounce, I will find another word with the same meaning rather than risk embarrassment by saying it incorrectly.


Q:

I find it really interesting that you speak with a British accent too.

A:

I can speak wi' a Yorkshire accent if tha wants mi to.


Q:

How would it feel for you if you could hear music ?

Is it possible to treat your deafness ?

Thank you for doing this.

A:

It would be interesting to know what music sounded like, but because I've never been able to hear properly, it's not something that I could make a comparison about. I feel it would be quite traumatic having to learn what all the different instruments, and the sounds around me are, and being deaf makes me who I am. So being able to hear would probably not be better at all, just different. If I could hear, I wouldn't be me! And I wouldn't have done the things that I have.

Lots of people suggest that I get a Cochlear Implant, but I don't want one. I'm sure that if my deafness could've been treated when I was young, then it would've been, but deaf I am, and deaf I will remain!


Q:

What is your favourite organ stop? I also play and love the 16' stops as you can really feel them rumbling through your underparts.

A:

I love a really raspy 16' fagot stop.


Q:

Hey Doc! I have a severe to profound hearing loss and I've been thinking about learning an instrument. I have a cochlear implant and hearing aid. I am located in Australia!

I have had my eyes on piano or trumpet for a while now, what steps could I take? I might check out your website, that may answer my questions.

A:

Hi! Great to hear from you ;) my simple answer is to have a go at loads of instruments then decide which ones you like best! Whatever you choose to play, I would recommend that you find a teacher but probably not someone who is too formal.

I don't have any info on my website about playing different instruments, but I do have a friend in Australia who has done a lot of work on music and deafness. Her name is Karen Kyriakou. Google her. She is based in Melbourne.

Do let me know if you contact her and how you get on. Good luck!


Q:

What originally got you interested in music, and did you have any hesitation about starting to study music?

A:

For my original interest in music - see some of my other replies in this thread. I never had any hesitation about starting to study music and knew from a young age it was what I wanted to do. Nobody was going to stop me!


Q:

Are you related to Roger Whittaker?

A:

No, I've been asked this before outside of Reddit. But when I was a kid, I did wonder...


Q:

How do you know if your music will be good if you can’t hear it? How to you know what it is like?

A:

My training enabled me to know whether it's good or not. I certainly know when I've gone wrong so then have to go back and work out exactly where and why I made a mistake.

With a full orchestral piece, I know what it's like because of the detail in the score, and watch the conductor and players to discern nuances of interpretation. I can never really tell what pop, rock, jazz recordings are like as sheet music is usually pretty basic for those genres. However, interpreters and friends will occasionally help me fill in the gaps by explaining what's going on.


Q:

Have you seen the movie, 'Mr Holland's Opus' ?

A:

Yes I have. I saw it when it was first released and really should watch it again. I recall being quite frustrated at the main characters behaviour and attitude towards deafness, but probably cried buckets at the end.


Q:

Is the world quiet to you or do you hear white noise and soft mumbles?

Also do you get handicap parking or no as a deaf person?

A:

Yes, the world is very quiet indeed, especially when I switch my hearing aids off or leave them out. In fact, it's totally silent. With hearing aids, I pick up general noise but cannot identify what it is, what direction it's coming from, nor speech. If I take my glasses off, I've got an even bigger problem because I can't see to lip read or see anyone signing!

No, I don't get free parking.


Q:

Where may I find recordings of your arrangements or playing? Which are you most proud to show off?

A:

There is only one recording of any arrangement I have done, and that was for Manchester Lesbian and Gay chorus. It was an arrangement of 'Seasons of Love'. I have hardly any recordings of me playing, so perhaps I should do more and put them on my website.


Q:

How did the queen look in person? Taller or shorter than you expected? And what did she say to you?

A:

It was the third time I've met The Queen when I got my OBE. The first time, we chatted about my work. The second was a brief introduction as part of a welcoming party, and the third was congratulating me on receiving an OBE.

She was shorter than I expected but has immense presence and makes you feel like you're the only person in the room.


Q:

Thank you so much for answering my question. Might I also ask what actually happens after you get your OBE? is there a formal dinner that occurs?

A:

No, there is no formal dinner. You go to an investiture, have your photo taken, then go home. If you want a formal dinner, you arrange it yourself and hope your friends will pay!


Q:

Hi! I’m a CODA in the US and wondered if you consider yourself Deaf (culturally Deaf) or deaf (hearing loss)?

As an aside, I love seeing Deaf people proving that Deaf Can! Recently read about the first deaf police officer in the US (she’s in Texas, I believe).

And my (Deaf) dad has always been a big fan of music, I used to interpret songs for him while he had huge headphones on with the sound up real high so he could feel the vibrations of the beat.

A:

Hi. I've always had a problem with the phrase 'Deaf Culture' because it often seems to exclude things that are important to me like music and literature. I find that Deaf Culture can be quite limiting and don't understand why deaf experience needs to be sidelined into something quite exclusive.

I realise that's quite a political point but I wish to see people engaging with and experiencing life in all it's variety rather than just a little bit of it.

Deaf people can indeed do anything, but I know quite a few who need a good kick in order to get them moving!

I see myself a deaf person who is cultured.


Q:

Hi, Dr Whitaker, since the advent of closed captions and text messages do you feel this equalizes both the hearing and hard of hearing people and how does it aid you in your engagement with the world?

A:

Closed captions and especially texting have made a massive difference to me and to many deaf people.

Live captioning can still be frustrating when it doesn't give the right information and captioning on DVD's does not always give full information. Technology alone isn't enough for us to feel fully equal in a hearing world, but the situation is certainly better than it was when I was a child.

Texting, messenger, WhatsApp, things like Reddit, make a big difference if you have decent written skills but for a lot of sign language users, they have more limited use and impact.


Q:

What does profoundly deaf mean?

A:

See my other reply regarding this.


Q:

How does one get an OBE? Does someone else nominate you? Do you fill out a form. Do you just do your own thing not thinking about it and then one day a letter arrives? Is it your music or your music charity work that pushed you over the edge?

A:

Someone nominates you and they encourage other people to send letters of support. You are unaware of this until a letter arrives from 10 Downing Street saying you have been awarded something. It can take several years to get one.

The OBE was for services to music, so would cover both my music education and my charity work.


Q:

Can someone still enjoy music if he or she have some hearing problems?

If so, how?

A:

The short, simple answer is yes. I suppose it depends on whether you're enjoying music passively or actively - is the person making music or listening to it?

I have always maintained that if a deaf person wants a career as a musician, they have to learn a lot about it theoretically, academically, technically. When I was at University, my tutor once told me that I was the easiest student he'd ever had to teach. When I asked him why, he said it was because I was deaf and therefore had to rely on a printed score. He pointed out that, when asked to analyse a piece of music, most people just went away and listened to it. Because I couldn't do that, but had to rely on reading a score, he said that I noticed far more information and was therefore more analytical.

I feel it's easier to make music as a deaf person if you've had a hearing loss from birth or a young age. Coping with an acquired hearing loss (or any disability) is much harder because you're so used to being able to hear, see, or whatever, and it's harder for your brain and body to adjust. Over the years, I've often felt that I have let people with acquired hearing loss down because I couldn't help them as much as I wanted to and felt that they would benefit more from 1:1 help which distance precluded me being able to do.

The earlier you can expose anyone to music, the better. Let them explore the range that is available. Try lots of instruments and styles so that they find something that they like and enjoy, then from that you can begin to develop more detailed interests and knowledge. For me, hearing loss is irrelevant. It's about passion, participation, and enjoyment.

Every individual has their own interpretation of music, their own taste, likes, and dislikes. One of the great things about music is that it can never really be wrong. It's entirely what you make of it.


Q:

Thank you for this.

I recently aquired some degree of minor hearing problems from which I still don't know the cause.

And let's just say the whole thing was really life changing so I really appreciate your answer.

A:

Sorry to know about your hearing problems and hope you get them sorted. It will be a difficult time for you, I'm sure, but do talk to other people with experience of hearing loss and remain positive.

If you read through some of my other replies, hopefully you can find some encouragement there as well. Are you involved in music at all?


Q:

I hope I am not late. :) Thank you for the AMA Dr Paul Whittaker!

Wow. I am shocked!

  1. Was ever, anyone jealous of you? :)

  2. I am not a musician, not sure how to write this down, but sometimes when you press 2 sounds on the keyboard of the piano, those 2 sounds are totally NOT matching. It is something like a screech for my ears. Do you have anything like that when using the piano vibrations?

  3. This might be a stupid question, but, can you whistle? :-)

A:

I'm sure people have been jealous, but they've never come up to my face and told me so!

I think you're talking about dissonance here, which is where you get two sounds which don't sound pleasant together. Yes, it still feels like a dissonance through vibration. Scientifically, you have certain notes that work in harmony with one another, and others that don't, and it's both an aural and physical sensation.

I can't whistle. See other reply about that.


Q:

This isn’t a question, but I imagine you could compose with pure objectivity, relying only on your theoretical knowledge vs. hearing the piece.

Have you though deeply or talked about this with other musicians? What’s your take on(or approach to) composition as a hearing-impaired musician?

A:

Yes I could. I have talked about this with other musicians, and it's how I think Beethoven composed many of his works after losing his hearing. He didn't need to hear the music physically - he had it all in his head. My approach to composition is the same as a hearing musician. I have something musical I want to express, and wish to share that with other people. Though whether anyone else would want to listen to it is a moot point.


Q:

Can you still feel goosebumps when sight-reading music? In the sense that when someone with full hearing would get goosebumps from hearing beautiful music do you get the same reaction when reading the sheet music? Thank you for your inspirational story!

A:

Great question, and the answer is yes. Sometimes I get goosebumps from reading the score, but not while I actually experience the music being played, live or recorded.

Sometimes the reality is more disappointing than the imagination.


Q:

I saw a story on Reddit a couple months ago about glasses or some sort of earpiece that amplify the vibrations of music so that your brain can "hear" the notes through bone vibrations. People were comparing it to how Beethoven used a metal rod between his teeth to feel the notes played his piano. What are your opinions on this type of technology and would you consider ever using it?

A:

I think I saw something about this, but it wasn't on Reddit. I'm always keen to give any new technology a try, but have not yet found anything that compensates for my ability to read a score and hear all that music in my head. Plus relying on vibrations.


Q:

Hello. Like most, I am amazed and inspired by your story.

I often have this thought that if I were disabled, be it deaf, blind, missing limbs, etc. that I would still consider myself so absurdly lucky that I'm alive and can have thoughts considering an alternative possibility in which my atoms were instead assembled into say, a chair or a televison. Obviously there are some exceptions as some disabilities are so bad that the unfortunately stricken cannot think or are not conscious. Or maybe they can think but are in so much constant pain that they'd rather not be conscious at all. And maybe it's easier for me to think that I'd feel that way considering I'm not disabled in any way.. I don't know. I guess my question is, as somebody who fits into this category, have you ever had similar thoughts? Are there times that your lack of hearing, or maybe consequences brought about by being deaf such as bullying has gotten you so down that you'd rather not exist? Sorry that this was kind of just rambling but I haven't had my morning coffee yet so I'm exempt from blame. Cheers and I hope the rest of your life is wonderful.

A:

That is deep for early morning before coffee. My deafness has never got me so down that I'd rather not exist. I have suffered from depression on 4 occasions and deafness was a contributory factor, but not the major one.

Having said that, incidences of mental health among deaf people are far higher than they are for hearing people and this is an area that really needs addressing.

This is one reason why sharing my story is important to me because is it can give encouragement and help to others, that's a great thing.

Enjoy your coffee!