Evelyn Glennie

Dame Evelyn Elizabeth Ann Glennie,[1] CH, DBE (born 19 July 1965) is a Scottish virtuoso multi-percussionist, performing internationally with a wide variety of orchestras and contemporary musicians. She was selected as one of the two laureates for the Polar Music Prize of 2015.

Evelyn Glennie

Glennie at Moers Festival 2004
Background information
Birth nameEvelyn Elizabeth Ann Glennie
Born (1965-07-19) 19 July 1965
Aberdeenshire, Scotland

Early life

Glennie was born and brought up in Aberdeenshire. Her father was Herbert Arthur Glennie, an accordionist in a Scottish country dance band, and the strong, indigenous musical traditions of north-east Scotland were important in the development of the young musician, whose first instruments were the mouth organ and the clarinet.[2] Other major influences were Glenn Gould, Jacqueline du Pré and Trilok Gurtu. She studied at Ellon Academy and the Royal Academy of Music, and was also a member of the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland.[3] She was a member of the Cults Percussion Ensemble, formed in 1976 by local musical educator Ron Forbes. They toured and recorded one album, which was re-released on Trunk Records in 2012.[4]


Glennie tours extensively in the northern hemisphere, spending up to four months each year in the United States, and performs with a wide variety of orchestras and contemporary musicians, giving over 100 concerts a year as well as master classes and "music in schools" performances; she frequently commissions percussion works from composers and performs them in her concert repertoire.

She also plays the Great Highland Bagpipes and has her own registered tartan known as "The Rhythms of Evelyn Glennie".[5] Glennie is in the process of producing her own range of jewellery and works as a motivational speaker. Evelyn also performed at the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games in London 2012, leading a thousand drummers in the opening piece of music, and then playing the Aluphone during the ceremony for lighting the Olympic cauldron.


Glennie has been profoundly deaf since the age of 12, having started to lose her hearing from the age of 8.[6] This does not inhibit her ability to perform at an international level. She regularly plays barefoot during both live performances and studio recordings to feel the music better.[6]

Glennie contends that deafness is largely misunderstood by the public. She explains that she taught herself to hear with parts of her body other than her ears. In response to what she described as mostly inaccurate reporting by the media, Glennie published "Hearing Essay" in which she discusses her condition.[7] Glennie also discusses how she feels music in different parts of her body in her TED talk "How To Truly Listen", published in 2003.[8]


Glennie was featured on Icelandic singer Björk's album Telegram, performing the duet "My Spine". She has collaborated with many other musicians including former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett, Bela Fleck, Bobby McFerrin, Fred Frith, Mark Knopfler and The King's Singers.

On 21 November 2007, the UK government announced an infusion of £332 million for music education. This resulted from successful lobbying spearheaded by Glennie, Sir James Galway, Julian Lloyd Webber, and Michael Kamen, who also (in 2002–03) together formed the Music in Education Consortium.[9]

In 2012, she collaborated with Underworld on the soundtrack to the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games and performed live in the stadium.

In 2018, Glennie worked with Gregory Doran and the Royal Shakespeare Company on the music for a production of Troilus and Cressida.[10]


Glennie has won many awards, including:

She has been awarded 15 honorary doctorates from universities in the United Kingdom, the Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1993 and was promoted to Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2007 New Year Honours.[13] She was appointed to the Order of the Companions of Honour (CH) in the 2017 New Year Honours.[14] She owns over 2000[15] percussion instruments from all over the world and is continually adding to her collection. Glennie is an Ambassador of the Royal National Children's Foundation (formerly the Joint Educational Trust) which helps support vulnerable, disadvantaged young people at state and independent boarding schools throughout the UK. She has also been the Patron of the London School of Samba since 1993.[16]

She achieved a new kind of recognition in June 2016 when her name was the solution to an anagram clue in the Everyman Crossword in the UK's Observer Sunday newspaper - "Percussionist playing line gently, even with time running out (6,7)".


  • Rhythm Song (1990)
  • Dancin'
  • Light in Darkness (1991) (RCA Victor 60557-2-RC), with Philip Smith, Steve Henderson, Gregory Knowles, Gary Kettel
  • Veni, veni Emmanuel (1993) (Catalyst 09026-61916-2. All pieces composed by James MacMillan. Scottish Chamber Orchestra.)
    • Veni, Veni, Emmanuel
      • Introit – Advent
      • Heartbeats
      • Dance – Hocket
      • Transition: Sequence I
      • Gaude, Gaude
      • Transition: Sequence II
      • Coda – Easter
    • After the Tryst
    • "...as others see us..."
      • Henry VIII (1491–1547)
      • John Wilmot (1647–1680)
      • John Churchill (1650–1722)
      • George Gordon (1788–1824) and William Wordsworth (1770–1850)
      • Thomas Stearns Eliot (1888–1965)
      • Dorothy Mary Hodgkin (b. 1910)
    • Three Dawn Rituals
      • Larghetto
      • Allegro moderato
      • Andante
    • Untold
  • Drumming ( 11–15 December 1994)
  • Wind In The Bamboo Grove (1995)
  • Street Songs (1998) with The King's Singers
  • Shadow Behind the Iron Sun (1999)
  • Touch the Sound (soundtrack of the film; 2004)
  • The Sugar Factory (featuring Fred Frith; 2007)
  • Music: The Sound Of Hope (2012): contributed to a DVD and CD project in aid of The Clarence Adoo Foundation
  • Altamira (2016) with Mark Knopfler


  • Touch the Sound (2004). Directed by Thomas Riedelsheimer, featuring a collaboration with Fred Frith. The farm where she grew up burned down during the production of the film, but her brother, Roger (who is featured in the film), and the animals, were unhurt.[17]


  • Good Vibrations: My Autobiography[18]

Television appearances

  • ZingZillas (2010). Appeared in episode 19 ("Hide and Seek") playing tubular bells on the BBC channel CBeebies.[19] and in episode 50 ("Where's the Bug?") playing the waterphone.[20]
  • Sesame Street (2001). Appeared playing percussion with Oscar The Grouch's Grouchkateer Trash Band.[21]

Performed a scene with Sesame Street regular Linda Bove.[22]

See also


  1. Lauren Vogel Weiss. "Percussive Arts Society: Hall of Fame: Evelyn Glennie". Pas.org. Archived from the original on 30 May 2014. Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  2. Cornwell, Tim (13 May 2009). "Evelyn Glennie Interview: Nothing like this Dame". The Scotsman. Retrieved 23 September 2017.
  3. Campsie, Alison (24 January 2017). "Deaf musician Evelyn Glennie on finding new ways of listening". The Scotsman. Retrieved 23 September 2017.
  4. "Cults Percussion Ensemble". Trunkrecords.com. Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  5. "Tartan Details – The Scottish Register of Tartans". Tartanregister.gov.uk. 5 February 2009. Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  6. "PBS Interview". 14 June 1999. Archived from the original on 8 September 2012. Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  7. Glennie, Evelyn (1993). "Hearing Essay". Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 April 2011. Retrieved 4 April 2013.
  8. Glennie, Evelyn (February 2003), How to truly listen, TED, retrieved 2 June 2017
  9. "Culture, Arts and Entertainment". Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  10. "About the play - Troilus and Cressida - Royal Shakespeare Company". Rsc.org.uk. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  11. "Heriot--Watt University Edinburgh & Scottish Borders: Annual Review 2002". 1.hw.ac.uk. Archived from the original on 13 April 2016. Retrieved 30 March 2016.
  12. "PAS.org: News". Web.archive.org. Archived from the original on 14 April 2009. Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  13. "UK | Rod and Zara top New Year Honours". News.bbc.co.uk. 30 December 2006. Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  14. "No. 61803". The London Gazette (1st supplement). 31 December 2016. p. N27.
  15. "BBC Two – What Do Artists Do All Day?, Evelyn Glennie". Bbc.co.uk. 30 October 2014. Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  16. "Home - Samba Dance & Drumming Classes London". Samba Dance & Drumming Classes London. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  17. Pasles, Chris (9 September 2005). "To hear, one must truly listen". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 4 April 2013.
  18. Evelyn Glennie (3 May 1990). Good Vibrations: My Autobiography. Hutchinson. ISBN 0-09-174305-2.
  19. "BBC – CBeebies Programmes – ZingZillas, Series 1, Hide and Seek". Web.archive.org. Archived from the original on 4 June 2011. Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  20. "ZingZillas – CBeebies". BBC.co.uk. Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  21. "Sesame Street: Evelyn Glennie Plays the Drums". YouTube.com. 20 February 2009. Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  22. "Sesame Street - Percussion Duet". Retrieved 26 March 2018.
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