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Interview with Leo Long, co-researcher

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Leo, a co-researcher on our new report, Reshape Music, shares his experiences of making music.

Leo is a folk musician who plays bodhran and banjo in various ensembles and orchestras. He is diagnosed with severe speech and language disorder and ASD. Earlier this year, Leo was selected to create a new piece of artistic work as part of a programme called Subject to Change: New Horizons at the Barbican in London. In addition to his music, Leo works as a volunteer ranger at South Down National Park. He also models with a modelling agency and enjoys playing sport - in particular, open water swimming and aquathlon. Through his own experience, Leo is keen to change the music industry to make it more Disabled-people-friendly and an easier place to work.


My name's Leo James Long. I am nineteen years of age. I was born in Japan and came to UK when I was six months old. I am a full-time student at Alton College. I make traditional folk with other countries' twist.

When and how did I first get involved with making music?

Music makes me feel alive and happy. I want to play Irish traditional instruments. My favourite band is called High Kings and a bodhrán player is whom I admire is called Brian Dunfry. 

What have your favourite experiences since you started making music been?

When I was performing in front of a big audience like in Trafalgar Square.

Why's this research important to me?

I would like to expand the Disabled musicians’ community.

Do you think your experience of making music has been the same as other people?

As [someone with] an autistic spectrum disorder and speech and language disorder, I am struggling to learn theory, also [it is] difficult to pass exams like GCSE's and A-levels, which [means that] I have very limited choice for my higher education, but it doesn't mean that I can't learn music.

I learn music by ear rather than reading. Also, I sometimes need to focus and learn in quiet spaces, rather than loud, noisy places.

What message do you have for other Disabled musicians?

Please take any opportunities to play any instrument. Also check any information about support for Disabled musicians on a website.

How could Disabled musicians be better supported?

The educators need to be not judgemental towards Disabled musicians, and the educators themselves [need to] have wider knowledge of methods, how to teach and [be] positive. The music industry [should] make some qualifications for educators who would like to teach musicians with disabilities.

Do you have any other hobbies or interests other than music?

I love doing sports like swimming and aquathlon. Also, my hobbies are as  important as music, but I would like to be a musician rather than sportsman for my career.

Music is my main priority and I would like to build [a music] career.

What is next for you in your musical career?

I would like to work with musicians, in industry, and I'd like to be a professional folk musician. I would like the music industry to take more apprenticeships for Disabled musicians. I would like to see more jobs available for Disabled musicians.

I would like to send a message to all the people who are watching this. Please take off negative images about working with Disabled musicians. We are unique, talented musicians with unlimited potential. We would love to co-operate with Disabled and non-Disabled people to work. Thank you very much.