Inspiring concert with an extraordinary composer
Grace Fisher composes music for her foundation’s fourth annual concert
Grace Fisher is delighted to see her foundation’s Winter Music Showcase return to the Granada stage for their first live concert with an audience in two years.
“Every band is thrilled to be on this stage,” Ms. Fisher told News-Press, referring to a host of artists, including “Voice” semi-finalist Will Breman, “American Idol contestant. Jackson Gillies, Three For Joy string trio, the Madrigals and the Bar-back Boys.
“It will be one of Santa Barbara’s favorite talents,” she said.
And the concert, which was virtual last year due to the pandemic, is the main fundraiser for the Grace Fisher Foundation.
The program is set for 5 p.m. Sunday.
âThis is how we make our money every year,â Ms. Fisher said. âI hope we win around $ 150,000. That’s what we earn every year, and every year it grows a little more.
It’s for a good cause. Since 2016, the association has offered free artistic programs for disabled children.
But Ms. Fisher prefers another term to describe the young people helped by her foundation. âWe don’t say ‘disabled children’. We say âchildren with all abilities. “
âWe bring the arts to children of all abilities,â she said. âWe have adaptive art, adaptive dance, and adaptive drum circles.
“It’s really about including everyone,” she said, adding that the programs are aimed at K-12 students, as well as high school graduates.
Children helped by the foundation are part of the Winter Music Showcase. They created characters that inspired the animation that will be shown on screen as a 30-piece orchestra, which includes members of the Santa Barbara Symphony, performs Ms. Fisher’s original compositions.
The compositions are proof that Ms. Fisher didn’t let her own physical challenges interfere with her dreams.
She was 17 in Santa Barbara High School and an accomplished pianist, cellist and guitarist when she was diagnosed with acute flaccid myelitis in 2014. The rare disease of the spine left Ms Fisher, who had just been accepted to the prestigious Berklee School of Music, paralyzed from neck to toe.
Despite this challenge, Ms. Fisher has adapted. She learned to compose music with special technology, which included an adaptive mouse for her computer. She controls the mouse by blowing through a tube and using what she calls “sip and puff technology.”
âI use a lot of adapted equipment. I control the computer with my tongue, âshe said.
The computer puts her notes on blank musical staves on the screen, and she asks the computer to read the music to hear how it would sound on various orchestral instruments.
âI’m in my senior year at UCSB studying music composition,â Fisher said, adding that she would be graduating with her bachelor’s degree in the field in June. âMy teacher was very helpful.
âBefore I became paralyzed and disabled, I wanted to be a studio musician. I’ve always loved music a lot, “she said.” I knew music was what I wanted to do as a career. It’s part of who I was and who I am now.
âEven though I can’t play my instruments, I am able to control an entire orchestra, which is certainly very rewarding,â she said.
Using her sip and puff technology, Ms. Fisher painted the backdrops for the two animated films that will be shown while the orchestra plays. One is a playful piece called “Critter Fable”.
âThis one is about a caterpillar who refused to become a butterfly, but who is still inspired by the colors and the world around it,â Ms. Fisher said. âEven though he cannot fly, he leads a happy life, just like worms and snails and other insects that cannot fly.
âIt’s a metaphor for disability,â Ms. Fisher said. âI still live a very good life, even though I do things differently from the typical person. “
Ms. Fisher spoke about another composition she wrote for the Winter Music Showcase Orchestra.
â’The Waltz of the Waves’ is about the fact that each of us has invisible qualities,â she said, then explained the animation that will accompany the music. âWe asked the children to create their spirit animals. I also created my spirit animal.
“It’s all about the fact that an individual is so much more than what you see on the outside,” Ms. Fisher said.
She described the music as calming. âIt’s definitely a bit of a mystery too.
Her third composition, which makes its world premiere, is Madame Fisher’s Fantasy in G major: âMetamorphosisâ.
âEverything comes from the tuning of the orchestra. It’s like the metamorphosis of the orchestra, âsaid Ms. Fisher, who would love to write music for films. âIt starts with a single note. At the end, all the instruments play together.
Ms. Fisher and her incredible abilities were showcased in âI Am My Power,â a film that recently screened at a Cottage Health event at West-Wind Drive-in in Goleta.
âI took rehabilitation therapy at Cottage. It was fun to be introduced as one of the people in this movie. It went really well, âsaid Ms. Fisher, who lives with her parents, physiotherapists Bill and Debbie Fisher. (And she’s close to her sister, Emily, who this year is graduating with a public health degree from the University of California at Berkeley and is considering becoming a nurse practitioner.)
Ms. Fisher said she hopes her stories and those of others inspire people. She noted that everyone, including those who didn’t have obvious physical challenges, struggled to overcome anything.
“I did not understand everything,” said the composer and painter. âI still have day to day challenges.
âBut I know things can get better if I just have an open mind. I think that’s a lesson a lot of people can sympathize with.
e-mail: [email protected]