A severely disabled man has been chosen to join an orchestra after learning to play music — with his EYES.
Bradley Warwick, 21, who has cerebral palsy, was spotted at auditions earlier this year when he played ground bass using his EyeGaze communication aid device.
The judges in Bristol were so impressed by his musical ability that he was awarded a place in the South West Open Youth Orchestra.
It is the UK’s first disabled-led regional youth orchestra which is bringing together both able-bodied and disabled musicians from across the country.
Bradley has always been passionate about music but found that his disability, which he has had since birth, did not allow him to play music to a high level.
But two years ago he was introduced to the EyeKeys software on a specialist computer which monitors his gaze and ‘plays’ the keys it detects he is looking at.
Bradley, who also uses the software for all his communication, said: “I was thrilled to be selected for the South-West Open Youth Orchestra.
“I’m hoping to make a career with my music.
“The orchestra has got lots of exciting plans, including a high profile concert in Bristol next year as part of the Fast Forward festival.
“I enjoy playing ground bass, using my I12 computer and being part of an orchestra is very exciting.
“Music makes me relax and feel happy inside. The words of songs and the music remind me of those special people in my heart.
“Orchestras are very important to me as it gives me the opportunity to perform with others.
“It enables me to get out and meet new people who also love music. I would love to make a career with music, so I hope this will all help.”
Bradley, from Bristol, is currently studying at St Martin’s College in Stroud, Glos., which is a specialist young adult centre.
He uses the EyeGaze equipment to generate all his spoken phrases and send emails.
Jean Bankhead, acting Vice-Principal of Education at the college, said: “Bradley needs a lot of help with his personal care, eating and drinking.
“But he can use his EyeGaze computer to talk and communicate. He also uses it to do other things like make word documents and powerpoints and send texts and emails.
“His social understanding is just like anybody but he has difficulties because of his condition.
“Music is his great passion. He took part in a BBC Music Day earlier this year, where he played with members of the British Para Orchestra.
“I think it might be one of his ambitions to join that one day.”
Bradley‘s love of music began during his time at St Rose’s Special School in Stroud where he learnt to play music using a sound beam.
However, his lack of control over his hand movements limited his opportunities.
Open Up Music, which is a charity that encourages young disabled people to become musicians, have been instrumental in Bradley‘s progress using the EyeGaze system.