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Evelyn Glennie
Glennie at Moers Festival 2004
Background information
Birth name Evelyn Elizabeth Ann Glennie
Born 19 July 1965 (1965-07-19) (age 56)
Aberdeenshire, Scotland
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Percussion

Dame Evelyn Elizabeth Ann Glennie, CH, DBE (born 19 July 1965) is a Scottish percussionist. She was selected as one of the two laureates for the Polar Music Prize of 2015.

Early life

Glennie was born in Methlick, Aberdeenshire in Scotland. Her father was Herbert Arthur Glennie, an accordionist in a Scottish country dance band. The indigenous musical traditions of north-east Scotland were important in her development as a musician. Her first instruments were the mouth organ and the clarinet. Other 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. 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.


Glennie tours 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.

Glennie also plays the Great Highland Bagpipes and has her own registered tartan known as "The Rhythms of Evelyn Glennie". Glennie is in the process of producing her own range of jewellery and works as a motivational speaker.

Glennie 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.

On 7 April 2021, Glennie was named as the Chancellor of Robert Gordon University to succeed Sir Ian Wood in July 2021.


Evelyn Glennie on sesame-street
Evelyn Glennie on Sesame Street

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

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. Glennie also discusses how she feels music in different parts of her body in her TED talk "How To Truly Listen", published in 2003.


Glennie was featured on Icelandic singer Björk's album Telegram, performing the duet "My Spine". She has collaborated with 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.

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. In the same year she began a collaboration with experimental jazz trio HLK, touring with them and appearing on their debut album Standard Time.

In 2020, Glennie collaborated with the music charity Sound World, composing a new piece “The Grace of Silence” for their Coronavirus Fund for Freelance Musicians. It was recorded by members of the Bristol Ensemble and released by Sound World in January 2021.


Glennie's awards include:

  • Royal Philharmonic Society's Best Soloist of the Year 1991
  • Best Chamber Music Performance in the Grammy Awards of 1989
  • Scot of the Year 1982
  • Queen's Commendation prize for all round excellence, 1985
  • Leonardo da Vinci International Art Award, 1987
  • Scotswoman of the Decade, 1990
  • Best Studio and Live Percussionist from Rhythm Magazine 1998, 2000, 2002, 2003 & 2004
  • Walpole Medal of Excellence, 2002
  • Fellowship of the Royal Academy of Music, 2002
  • Honorary Doctorate from Heriot-Watt University, 2002
  • Honorary Fellowship from Homerton College, Cambridge, 2016
  • Musical America Instrumentalist of the Year, 2003
  • Sabian Lifetime Achievement Award, 2006
  • Percussive Arts Society: Hall of Fame – November, 2008
  • Polar Music Prize for the year 2015
  • Best Classical Instrumental Solo in the Grammy Awards of 2014

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. She was appointed to the Order of the Companions of Honour (CH) in the 2017 New Year Honours. She owns over 2000 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. She was appointed Music Rights Champion by the International Music Council in October 2016.


  • Rhythm Song (RCA Victor, 1990)
  • Dancin (RCA Victor, 1991)
  • Light in Darkness (RCA Victor, 1991)
  • Rebounds: Concertos for Percussion (RCA Victor, 1992)
  • Veni, Veni, Emmanuel (Catalyst, 1993)
  • Wind in the Bamboo Grove (Catalyst, 1995)
  • Drumming (Catalyst, 1996)
  • The Music of Joseph Schwantner (RCA Victor, 1997)
  • Reflected in Brass (RCA Victor, 1998)
  • Shadow Behind the Iron Sun (RCA Victor, 1999)
  • Africa Sunrise/Manhattan Rave (Black Box, 2000)
  • Oriental Landscapes (BIS, 2002)
  • Touch the Sound (Normal, 2004) – soundtrack of the film of the same name
  • Experimental Percussion (Audio Network, 2009)
  • Winter Wonderland (KPM Music, 2011)
  • Ecstatic Drumbeat (BIS, 2012)
  • Out of the Silence (Delphian, 2018)


  • 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.


  • Good Vibrations: My Autobiography

Television appearances

  • She was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1991 when she was surprised by Michael Aspel.
  • ZingZillas (2010). Appeared in episode 19 ("Hide and Seek") playing tubular bells on the BBC channel CBeebies. and in episode 50 ("Where's the Bug?") playing the waterphone.
  • Sesame Street (2001). Appeared playing percussion with Oscar The Grouch's Grouchkateer Trash Band.

Performed a scene with Sesame Street regular Linda Bove.

  • 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony (27 July 2012), leading a 1,000-drummer ensemble performing And I Will Kiss in the Pandemonium segment.
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