If you believe that disability is reason enough to be locked up in your own world, with no friends, no job, no motivation, and loaded with self-pity, then wait until you read the story of Gaelynn Lea, the phenomenal musician, and public speaker from Duluth Minnesota who didn’t let her disability depress her and keep her from living her life to the fullest.
Although Gaelynn Lea was born with a physical disability called Osteogenesis Imperfecta (also known as a brittle bone disease), a genetic disorder that left her with bent arms and legs and a shortened stature, through the music she has learned to live above her own struggles, give back to her world and motivate others to live above their disabilities and struggles while striving to be the best they can be.
Lea now tours America and Europe, electrifying every place she visits with her haunting electro-folk music. In 2016, she won NPR Music’s Tiny Desk competition. She is a passionate and strong advocate of authentic living and personal growth, which is why she goes around talking to people and motivating them to achieve their own goals. She is also committed to the advancement of the disabled.
Gaelynn Lea Bio
Lea talks a lot about her family because she believes that they are her biggest influences, but at the same time, she keeps their identity as far away from the media as possible. So even though we know that she has parents and siblings because she often talks about them in her conversations and interviews, their names are not known.
We also know that she was born in 1984 in Duluth, Minnesota, but the exact date and month are not known. She was born with a genetic disease called Osteogenesis Imperfecta, which inhibits growth by causing complications in the development of bones and limbs. Due to the disease, she has angled arms and legs and a shortened stature. She had never walked before and had to start using an electric wheelchair before she was three years old. When she learned to use the power wheelchair at this tender age, many of her doorways and toenails were destroyed.
She attended East High School, which she graduated from in 2002. After high school, she attended Macalester College in St. Paul for three years before transferring to the University of Minnesota, Duluth in 2008, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in political science with a minor in psychology.
Her Music Career
Gaelynn Lea fell in love with classical music at a very tender age. Her teacher took note of this and encouraged her to dedicate herself to music after she had achieved a perfect score in a test on music listening. With the help of her teacher, she found a way to hold her violin upright in a wheelchair, with a tiny cello attached to her foot so that she could not slip and fall while playing, rather than on her shoulder.
Her musical style is a mixture of classical, Celtic, and traditional folk music. Because of her stature, she plays the violin the way a cellist would, and this is so amazing because it produces a very unique sound. Using the loop pedals, she layers several orchestrated parts of an electric violin on top of each other while singing. The pedals have helped her to build and develop several layers of sound.
At the beginning of Lea’s career, she worked with Alan Sparhawk. She has also played with Billy McLaughlin and Charlie Parranda. Her first solo album All the Roads that Lead Us Home was released in 2015 and the following year she won NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Contest after her song “Someday We’ll Linger in the Sun” was selected from over 6,000 other entries.
In addition to her music, Lea is an advocate of disability and also a strong advocate of authentic living and personal growth. She was a guest speaker at Yale University for a TEDx talk, where she spoke about sexuality, the barriers faced by people with disabilities, and how art can be used as a vessel to overcome physical limitations.
Who Is Her Husband?
Gaelynn Lea married her friend and partner Paul Tressler in 2013 for seven years. Paul has no form of disability and has been very supportive of Lea and her career by traveling with her during her musical tours.
The couple lives in their own house in Duluth with their cat Cecilia and dog Clara.
Here Are Facts You Need To Know About Gaelynn Lea
Before she decided to pursue a career in music, Lea wanted to pursue a career as a lawyer and disability rights advocate. During her time at the university, she was the coordinator of a disability rights group called Access for All.
She worked for Hanlon & Associates as an insurance agent and was licensed to sell houses, cars, business, and life insurance.
Lea is 3 feet tall and teaches violin at Gaelynn Lea Music.