Alexia, 15, who lost her eyesight completely and suddenly at the age of 2, started learning the recorder at the age of 6 whilst also learning to read Braille Music. She was a chorister at Great St Mary’s University Church in Cambridge for 5 years where she rehearsed several times a week and sung regularly in their Sunday services.
Alexia studies the recorder with the international recorder player and flautist Michael Copley and has been supported by grants from The Amber Trust since 2010. She is currently preparing for her Grade 8 recorder exam having achieved a high Merit in her Grade 5 Music Theory. She also has piano lessons and is preparing for her Grade 5 singing exam.
She started composing properly when she was 12 years old. She composes her pieces entirely in her head, away from any instrument or composition software. Until very recently, she used to have to dictate her pieces to an amanuensis who had to enter them onto Sibelius. This took about 9 hours for a 6 minute piece.
She now has access to a Braille Music Notation Software which is similar to Sibelius. She received a commendation for her first instrumental composition entitled ‘Meditation’ which she submitted for The Cambridge Young Composer Competition in November 2014 and she has recently been successful in gaining a place to become an Aldeburgh Young Musician. She is the first blind musician and composer to be accepted to join this highly competitive scheme. The themes of Alexia’s compositions are generally Nature, Philosophy and Psychology.
She enjoys exploring the setting of texts from a wide range of cultures and languages, including Mandarin and Basque and hopes to add ancient texts from languages such as Sanskrit and Pali to her list. Outside of choral music, she loves to write for unusual combinations of instruments, using her synaesthesia as a source of inspiration. She is also fascinated by the use of music as a form of deep self-expression. Alexia likes to remember what Sibelius said, “Music begins where the possibilities of language end”.
Alexia is exceptionally talented in other ways. She is fluent in four languages including Chinese. Last March, she achieved a Gold certificate in Round 1 of the UK Linguistics Olympiad and was selected as one of 17 out of more than 1700 students to go through to Round 2 at Somerville College, Oxford. This competition is typically entered by 17 and 18 year olds.
Through her music, three years ago, Alexia was invited to 10 Downing Street to meet and speak to David Cameron. When she was 10 years old, she also spent a day at Anthony Horowitz’s house, where they talked about the book she is writing and played the piano together. The novel she has written is musically based and entitled ‘A piccolo’s tale’.
Alexia is determined not to let her blindness stop her from achieving all that she can in her pursuit of a career in music. Her ambition is to study Music at Cambridge and to become a professional composer. When she was 9 and 10 years old, she was the winner of the International Onkyo Braille Writing Competition and in one of her essays, she wrote the following:
“Music is the light that guides many people on the journey of life, blind people in particular, because hearing is one of our greatest assets. Braille music is the medium we use to interpret the language of music.”
You can hear some of Alexia’s compositions by clicking on the links below or going to her website at www.alexiasloane.wordpress.com .