Gaelynn Lea was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, a genetic condition that causes complications in the development of bones and limbs. She fell in love with music in elementary school and in fifth grade a teacher took notice and encouraged her to pursue music after she had the class's only perfect score on a music listening test. Gaelynn developed a technique for violin which involved holding the bow in a unique way with the body of the instrument placed in front of her, like a cello.
At college, Gaelynn discovered folk music, and later one of Duluth’s local legends, Alan Sparhawk of Low, introduced her to using a looping pedal. “He said, ‘You should learn, because someday you’ll play shows by yourself.’
She gained exposure after winning NPR's 2016 Tiny Desk Contest and her song and performance for "Someday We Will Linger in the Sun” was selected over six thousand other submissions. Gaelynn was a guest speaker at Yale University for a TedxTalk to discuss sexuality, the obstacles for people with disabilities and the use of art as a vessel to overcome physical limitations. You can read more from Gaelynn on her blog here and a great article about her from the Guardian is available here.
One of the many things that’s so amazing about being in Gaelynn’s presence is how much she’s constantly moving in her wheelchair and how fast she is. Very fast. You can see a bit of that in this snippet of her practicing with Michael Rufo (acoustic guitar) and Ellie DiBerardino (upright bass) before the show.
Here are some of her Ted Talks and other videos that you can explore to learn more about this wonderful human being.