Ashleigh has autism and has been sightless from birth. She first met The Music Works in 2014 when we led a whole class music programme at The Milestones School for disabled children and young people. We brought in everything-but-the-kitchen-sinkin terms of assistive technology. Ashleigh wanted to play the old school piano. At 13, Ashleigh impressed our music leaders with her command of the instrument.
Whilst she was able to play tunes well, what was remarkable was the accuracy with which she could replay freestyle melodies sung by her peers and then arranging music around them. Her passion for music was clear, but her teachers and support staff were at a loss to find pathways to make sure Ashleigh’s potential was realised. Over the next five years, working alongside The Music Works, Ashleigh completed a 10-week music course, learned saxophone with Gloucestershire Academy of Music and played live many times with the Derek Paravicini quartet under the tutelage of Prof. Adam Ockelford. Back in our studio, Ashleigh was busy writing her first EP on her laptop, mentored by Shivan, one of our engineers.
Chief among Ashleigh’s outstanding musical achievements was partnering for four years running with The Music Works to lead the 300-strong massed student choir at the G15 annual celebration of success at Gloucester Cathedral 2015-2019, arranging parts and playing piano for original songs written by young people across all 15 of Gloucester’s schools. As a farewell to the G15, Ashleigh wrote and opened the 2019 headline slot with a solo vocal performance for a pin-drop-silent audience, ending with rapturous applause, a standing ovation and an a rousing encore.
In 2020, Ashleigh continued to make music in lockdown, playing the lead accompaniment on The Music Works’ mass collaboration ‘Every Rainbow Drawn’ (clocking up 20,000 plays on socials, so far) and is now living in supported accommodation in London, starting her own band, while continuing to play piano and saxophone in the National Open Youth Orchestra. On 27th September 2020 Ashleigh played a set for the Annual Amber Trust Concert in London, attended by Patron, HRH the Duchess of Cornwall. Ashleigh is the only disabled young person studying at the South West Music School.
“The support of The Music Works has made the world of difference to Ashleigh’s confidence, keeping her going when things got tough, helping her express herself and find her voice, raise her musical horizons and smash down barriers that so often stand in young disabled people’s way when it comes to music, We cannot thank The Music Works enough.”
Christine Turley, Ashleigh’s Mum