How I overcame my disability to achieve a dream

6 October 2022

Paddy Phillips Musician - playing guitar and singing on stage

Paddy Phillips Musician playing guitarI’m Paddy. I’m 25 and I’m from a small village in the countryside near Brighton. I was born with a physical disability called hemiplegia which affects the left side of my body, giving me reduced motor skills in my left hand. I was also born with epilepsy, which in turn gave me a mild learning disability.

I have always been obsessed with music. When I was just 2, my glamorous great-uncle – who lives in the Bahamas and was a great friend of the late Sean Connery – nicknamed me the “Little Bopper”. He recognised my love of music, even at that age. When I was 7 or 8, my older cousins started a rock band and after that, there was no going back, I just knew my life had to be in music. But how? As a natural right-hander, it was always going to be a huge challenge to learn to play my dream instrument – the guitar. But I tried anyway, even though fretting the notes and forming the chords was almost impossible.

The start of my dream to play the guitar came one day when I was about 16 and met the father of a boy who also had hemiplegia, the same as me.

Amazingly, this father also happened to be a guitar teacher. He recommended flipping around the nylon strings on my cheap acoustic and playing left-handed. It worked! After hundreds of hours of practice in front of YouTube videos, plus lots of blood, sweat, and tears (and blisters) later, I’m a decent guitarist with a Diploma in Guitar Performance, and now even a Degree in Songwriting from BIMM, Brighton.

Paddy Phillips Musician - playing guitar and singing on stageI love to play in public, and play as often as I can, either solo or sometimes with a band. I love listening to all kinds of music, but like playing Blues, Country, and Rock best.

And I haven’t stopped at just the guitar. I used lockdown 2020 to improve my keyboard playing skills, practising with my weaker hand to play the bass notes and with my right hand to play…everything else.

Of course, my ambition is to work in music somehow. I know this will be really difficult, although I have kind of achieved it so far because during the last year I have worked as a Student Ambassador at my old music college, BIMM Brighton. I have also tried to do as much relevant volunteering as possible – for the Great Escape, part of the Brighton Festival, and for The Dome, the fantastic Brighton music venue. I also volunteer in local Oxfam and British Red Cross shops to get a different kind of experience…and to help people a little.

So that’s my story so far. When I was a young teenager I would definitely have thought it impossible I would be able to play the guitar in public (or at all) and then go on to get a degree in songwriting. I definitely haven’t achieved all of my dreams yet but I am slowly getting there.

The key to the future for me was flipping over my cheap guitar, but then having the dedication and belief to persevere. I’m sure there must be millions of people who have their own problems but can do the same as me, especially if they find the thing in their life that they really love.

By Paddy Phillips.

Find out more about Paddy and his music by visiting his website

Click here to find out more about CPotential services and how we can help children and young people with hemiplegia.

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