Classical 91.5

Dialogue on Disability: Celebrating Abilities

Since 2003 WXXI and the Al Sigl Community of Agencies have worked together to help break the ingrained stereotypes about individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities with its week-long initiative, Dialogue on Disability.  The initiative is designed to stimulate community dialogue about the perspectives and abilities of people with physical and intellectual disabilities. For a listing of all special programs click here.

In an effort to continue its commitment to motivate individuals to take action and to include more people with disabilities in the workplace, in schools, neighborhoods and in all aspects of society, WXXI has partnered with the Golisano Foundation in a year-round project called MOVE TO INCLUDE. Dialogue on Disability will continue to take place in January as part of this new project.



Dialogue on Disability is a partnership between WXXI and Al Sigl Community of Agencies - in conjunction with the Herman and Margaret Schwartz Community Series. Dialogue on Disability is supported by the Fred L. Emerson Foundation with additional support from The Golisano Foundation.

On Classical 91.5 we celebrate the musicians who compose and perform no matter what challenges they face.  Ludwig van Beethoven, Gabriel Faure and Ralph Vaughan Williams experienced hearing loss, as does percussionist Evelyn Glennie.  Hand injuries have not stopped pianists Misha Dicter, Leon Fleisher and guitarist Milos Karadaglic.  Vision loss, something many of us experience as we age, did not stand in the way of composers J. S. Bach, George Frederic Handel, Joaquin Rodrigo and Franz Schubert. And the often unseen depression and mental illness impacted composers Edward Elgar, Gustav Holst, Modest Mussorgsky, Irving Berlin and Charles Ives, among many others.  The music created by all of these individuals and many more is enjoyed every day on Classical 91.5.

Spotlight on Music Therapy in Rochester

Jan 21, 2020

Music Therapy has been shown to benefit people of all ages and abilities. It can improve cognitive, social, mental, physical and emotional needs. 

An organization in our own community is doing much to provide assistance and programs for those who would benefit from these services. The Expressive Arts Program at The Hochstein School, under the direction of Jennifer Phillips, has been providing services in the Rochester area for more than 40 years. Today we highlight the work they are doing.

Music Therapy in Aiding the Elderly with Memory Loss

Jan 18, 2019

  Before I begin this post, I want to introduce myself, as you most likely have not seen my name on this website before! My name is Ellen Robertson, and I am the Eastman School of Music Arts Leadership Program Spring Intern at Classical 91.5; I am originally from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and now a senior majoring in vocal performance.

When Rachel Flowers was born 15 weeks premature in 1993, she weighed just one and a half pounds. She lost her vision three months later due to a condition called retinopathy of prematurity. 

But when you talk to Rachel today, there's no sense of loss, disability, or limitations. The 25-year old music prodigy's world is vast and full of potential. By the time she was 4 years old, Rachel was playing Bach fugues on the piano seemingly with little effort. 

Now, with a flourishing music career, she composes her own songs and has befriended and sometimes performs with artists who have inspired her: Arturo Sandoval, Carl Palmer and Dweezil Zappa.

Joaquin Rodrigo was one composer who was blind, but wrote his music in braille, which was later transcribed into printed notation.  But what exactly is braille, and specifically braille music?

Deb Guarneiri is a music teacher on a mission: help people with upper arm disabilities to play the ukulele. 

Playing the ukulele brought her back to music in a difficult time – and she now is inspired to share that source of joy with others.

During Dialogue on Disability Week as we delve into the lives and stories of musicians who have overcome challenges to make the music they love, we are all discovering new stories, organizations and methods making music possible for all. 

One such organization I've discovered is the OHMI Trust (pronounced "oh-me") the One-Handed Musical Instrument trust. The OHMI Trust is a pioneer in the development and adaptation of musical instruments for people with physical disabilities.  


Honey Meconi brings music history to life.  

In her new book, Hildegard of Bingen, Meconi offers fresh insight into one of the most creative composers of her time, Hildegard, a German writer and mystic who lived the town of Bingen on the Rhine River.  In the twelfth century, she produced music, theological books, medical texts, and paintings.  

A year has passed since double bassist Gaelen McCormick sat down with Julia Figueras to talk about being afflicted with Bilateral Meniere's Disease, her loss of hearing because of it, and how she was coping with what Gaelen called her super power. A lot has transpired for Gaelen in the last 12 months, and as the next chapter in her new life unfolds, we asked Gaelen to share.

As part of WXXI's Dialogue on Disablilty, Dr. Catherine Lewis offers up this guest blog post.

Here in Rochester we are so fortunate to have a local public radio station deeply engaged in our community and attuned to important conversations happening in the world today. For several years now, WXXI Classical 91.5 has hosted a Dialogue on Disability during which composers and performers with disabilities are featured and disability experiences are celebrated. WXXI’s insightful programming is a powerful vehicle for changing the narrative around disability.  In anticipation of Dialogue on Disability 2019, I was honored to be asked by WXXI’s Julia Figueras to write a blog post about the language we use to discuss disability.  I offer the following with gratitude to WXXI for lifting up the work and stories of artists with disabilities and for sharing great music all year round.

Meet Rachel Flowers, a multi-talented young musician and composer who lost her eyesight due to Retinopathy of Prematurity. 

Hearing Is Believing, a new feature documentary from Award-winning producer/director Lorenzo DeStefano introduces the world to the multi-talented young musician and composer, Rachel Flowers.