by Rebecca Somerfield
Link Disability Magazine
Phillip says the ukulele is a great way of bringing people together.
Musician Phillip Chalker hasn’t let the deterioration of his eyesight hinder his music career. The talented guitarist, who is legally blind, leads community music workshops in Victoria’s Gippsland region, teaching participants how to play the ukulele and sing.
“I have been singing and playing guitar since the age of 18 and started playing the ukulele in 2012,” says Phillip.
“As a legally blind performer I love the ukulele as it’s a small instrument which is very portable and easy to get around.”
The ukulele – rather than guitar – is also a plus when it comes to Phillip’s Seeing Eye Dog, Roddy, as it doesn’t obstruct his ability to communicate with his dog.
“With a guitar I don’t have a free hand to give my dog commands, however with the ukulele I can just fling it over my shoulder and off I go.”
Phillip says though the ukulele can be difficult to master, with the right support and encouragement the instrument can be learnt by people of all ages and abilities.
“If they are taught by someone who is blind it encourages them to learn because they think ‘if he can do it, we can’.”
Despite the success of Phillip’s workshops his musical journey hasn’t been without setback.
“I have been legally blind since the age of five and am currently tackling the impact of further significant deterioration of my eyesight,” says Phillip.
“During my most recent formal music studies at TAFE this setback resulted in elements of the course not being offered to me because of (a lack of) adaptive technology to suit my eyesight and needs.
“I have had to identify, secure and learn new approaches that will work for me as a musician. I am determined to ensure that this does not permanently impact on my career and am currently building my skills as a performing and recording artist.
“To do this I work with a one-on-one mentor, Jane Coker, at my own pace from home with my own equipment. My Mac Book Pro comes with a built-in screen reader called ‘voice-over’ which has helped me in a big way.”
Phillip is also a passionate disability advocate, campaigning for improved disability access on V-line trains, for audio description services at West Gippsland Arts Centre and the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre and for the introduction of accessible inflight entertainment systems on Virgin Australia. He also volunteers with Community Music Victoria, encouraging people to form music groups in their area.
For more information on Philip and his workshops visit http://www.latrobemusic.com
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Playing his own tune > December 2014 > Read Issue > Link Magazine