Mallet percussion and disabilities

Hi everyone,

I am about to embark on the dissertation stage of my Ethnomusicology PhD program and my topic will be within the realm of music and disability studies (I know what you're thinking Tony, we just were talking about my other topic a few months ago, but long story short I had to change). I haven't chosen a specific topic yet but I would of course like to do something related to percussion if possible.

So here's my question: Do you know of any cases of anyone with any sort of disability playing mallet percussion? Of course there is Evelyn Glennie (deafness is not always considered a disability, but it still falls within the realm of Disability Studies), but other than that so far I've found just a few other examples:
-A couple d/Deaf percussion groups in K-12 d/Deaf education in the US
-Blind Birifor xylophonists in Ghana (Brian Hogan has written about these guys extensively)
-[Supposedly] the world's first deaf marimba band, at the Dominican School for the Deaf in South Africa.

This last one has not gotten much attention, but Jason "Malletman" Taylor (who some of us met at the World Vibes Congress a few years back) was a judge at Education Africa's Marimba and Steelpan Festival (supposedly the largest in the world), where they performed in competition against their hearing peers:

Does anyone know of other instances of percussionists with any sort of disability playing mallet instruments (or really any percussion instruments), especially in groups? Music and Disability Studies has tended to focus on cases of individuals within the US so far, so ideally I would like to focus on groups (in the US or elsewhere) or on individuals in countries other than the US.

At this point the sky is the limit, so literally anything you know of related to music and disability or deafness - in the US or elsewhere - is fair game.

Thanks in advance,

Access: Anonymous


Dupuytren's contracture ( affects the fingers) Is world wide and very common. Particularly the curse of guitar players in later life. Switching to mallet percussion can enable continued active musical engagement.
ciao Ms Otis

i have a student with I think arthritis problems.
And I know of a percussionist with Cochlear Implants. I can put you in touch with them.

I'll also put this in the newsletter.

PS I made the newsletter and it's in it.

I've had a few autistic students - Two severely autistic and one fully functional asperger's syndrome (perfect pitch and lots of talent). It was challenging for both student and instructor but highly rewarding in both also. Sometimes the lessons were very short and sometimes they'd make it a half hour but time wasn't of importance, just the music connection for however the length of time was. That connection made a difference both according to me and their parents. I'd look into Autistic Music Students very seriously if I were doing such an interesting journal. Good luck and GREAT topic.

there is an autistic percussion here in philly carolyne. and i think he's very very good. maybe i could put you in touch with him or his family.

Thanks Tony, and for putting this in the newsletter too!
I'm pretty sure I've found my project now, but all this info. on accessibility and mallet instruments could fit as a little extra part of my dissertation I bet. This is yet another example of why vibesworkshop needs to keep existing! ;)

i hope you get a lot of help from vibesworkshop! this is an incredible paper you're writing and I think for many reasons mallet instruments will work well helping people with disabilities. and besides that maybe it's a tolerant instrument for people with disabilities. know what i mean?

I do think all of us here at vibesworkshop are changing our little mallet world. and that's a great thing.

footnote. Perhaps this syndrome may open a wider audience than imagined. Statistically it would be very surprising if some even on this forum are not also affected
Much stuff here re (eg) guitar forums abundant vs vibes forums just one ?
Vibes/ mallet playing is obscure. Would not even occur to such stringed instrument players the possibility to extend their musical aspirations by switching. Forgive: I would drop the term " disability" in your enquiries. To many such it can be off putting/ even offensive / ring fencing into a corral where they cant just otherwise be ordinary folk with an interest.
Two penny worth: ciao Phil

Thanks Phil. I appreciate the comment about dropping the term disability, but as of now the academic field is literally called music and disability studies, so at least for now that is the easiest term to use. Within that field many scholars use "differently abled" in their writing, as do I, but when referring to the field as a whole disability studies is still the catchphrase people recognize most readily (even the book that is considered the cornerstone of the field is called "The Oxford Handbook of Music and Disability Studies"). Even d/Deaf studies still falls under the umbrella of disability studies in academia, despite many people who are d/Deaf taking pride in their deafness and the community built around it. It is problematic, but the field is aware of that and it is common for researchers to mention this in their writing.

These have been such great suggestions, and worthy of many projects, if not for my own pursuit than for others. I greatly appreciate all the support!

Believe you open a "Window Opportunity" for maybe more than perhaps perceived.
Go for it whatever Ms C . Hope you keep us posted.
Still ponder:
" Disabled" > "Labels" > "Does he take sugar?" OOH ? Maybe Prefix: " Window opportunity"/ disabled for best appeal.
ciao Phil

Hi Carolyn, I was wondering how your program was going. What got you interested in this field? It sounds like it would be good for job prospects. But you'll probably find the project difficult to see to completion, unless you are personally invested in some aspect of it (beyond the percussion connection), which seems unlikely to come from the suggestions of others. You mentioned that you have since found a topic, so maybe my comment is moot. I don't know anything about your field, but having gone through the grad school experience, if you ever want to chat, I'm available.


Hey Tristan, good to hear from you, and I appreciate the offer to chat!
I started learning sign language through music as a kid and have done a few projects on music and deafness over the years, but really what it boils down to is that my school has some of the foremost scholars in the field of music and disability studies and their support will make this step of school easier than with a different topic. I *wanted* to write a dissertation related to either vibraphone history, percussion and gender, or how online learning has transformed music education (with an emphasis on this very site), but my program wasn't on board. So...this is the route through which I can get the most support and hopefully the quickest path to finishing this degree.
I agree that finishing would be difficult without real interest, but the project I found is pretty exciting. There's a whole word of marimba band education in South Africa that isn't really happening anywhere in the world (as far as I know), including two marimba programs for deaf students and four for special needs students. I keep stumbling across connections to the program (for instance, just made some important connections at PASIC) and am going to go to South Africa this summer to meet the kids in the deaf band when they compete in a big festival. The woman who runs the program is very supportive of my interest and we're both hoping we can figure out how my music education background can contribute to the students' experience when I visit. So...I think I will stay interested in this project to make the dissertation happen. But anyway yeah, it'd be great to chat sometime! Hope all is well :)

That all sounds sensible to me. There is a strong need for conformity in graduate school, and everyone says a good dissertation is a finished dissertation. So more power to you for finding a topic! Before you know it, you'll be Dr. Stallard. If you want to chat sometime, my email is


While visiting friends in College Park, MD., I happened to meet someone who is a music therapist and music teacher who works with young adults on the autism spectrum focusing on percussion in particular. I mentioned your dissertation topic during the conversation and she would be more than happy to discuss some of her work with you. If you are interested, contact me at and I will send you her contact information. Good luck in your project.

Michael Dubick, Ph.D.

If you didnt catch this Worthy of a look : Evelyn Glennie
pro percussionist: Profoundly deaf. Lesson: "How to Listen"

ciao P