How did you first become aware of your dyslexia?
Very early on in my schooling it became clear to my parents that all was not well with my reading, writing and organisational skill (keeping a tidy bedroom for one!). This was particularly clear to my Mother as a special needs teacher. Back in the early 70’s Dyslexia was a very much mis-understood “disability”, so when it was raised with the school the response was less than satisfactory. I think words along the lines of “you’re an over concerned parent who knows too much” were used.
School became a challenge for me and I got branded as the “lazy, couldn’t be bothered” pupil. So, on leaving secondary school with no qualifications I started my first job as a cleaner within a bakery. I was pleased to have a job, but in my head, I knew I could do more. There was this feeling of frustration that built up as I felt I had to conform to the “normal” way of doing things in order to achieve anything.
I finally got formally diagnosed in my early 30’s with Dyslexia with Auditory Short-Term Memory and Sequencing issues. Having it confirmed and labelled was a weight of my shoulders as I knew I wasn’t “thick or stupid”, terms I’d heard many times. I was also given real practical ways to cope with life! I started to realise that people with dyslexia have a unique set of skills and if understood and harnessed can be a very powerful tool.
As I understood my condition better, I progressed quickly in various roles, I was given a life-changing break by an employer who said, “we are employing you for what you can do, not what you can’t do!” Following that seminal moment, I have held roles in Senior Management and as a company Global Executive, as well as having my own Business Consultancy. I am currently Group CEO of Out of the Ark Music, parent company of Same Boat Music.
How did you first get into music?
At the age of 9 by learning to play Puff the Magic Dragon on a classical nylon strung guitar, taught to me by our church Ministers son Dave Cooke. We always had music in our house as my Mum played piano. I didn’t realise how or why at the time, but music made way more sense to me than words. It helped me concentrate, it was something I could remember, I didn’t have to read anything but could just listen. It was like an escape from the world around.
After attempting to learn piano and clarinet, guitar is the one instrument I’ve stuck with. I have played and lead in various church bands since the age of 15. Although, I still can’t tell you how many flat or sharps are in a key, or which chords belong to which key. I also find remembering chord sequences a significant challenge so always need the chords and words in front of me, even for songs a played hundreds of times.
I have a strong affinity with the music I play and as a worship leader I feel I sense the music and what it’s trying to communicate which I hope is reflected in my leading and playing.
How does music impact you now with your dyslexia?
Music is still my go to when I want to relax, or I need to concentrate on some writing. I find if I need to type something then listening to music really helps me focus on what I am doing. As I rarely read, I have found music to be a great source of inspiration and dare I say, at times, a source of theological teaching! It can also help me to remember things, a simple tune to a bible verse or even shopping list can be handy.
Music for all of us, whether Dyslexic or not, can have a profound effect on emotions and many scientific studies show how music can be a positive force in our daily lives. Music can help create a cohesive society, it can help lift academic achievement, it has a significant effect on how we see the world around us.
Read our blog on The Positive Effects of Singing Together
Our favourite songs to help remember bible verses are:
Parts of a body - Based on Corinthians 12:12-26
Love In My Heart - Based on 1 Corinthians 13
Thank You For Loving Me - Based on John 3:16