If you think disability is enough reason to be locked up in your own world without friends, no job, no motivation, and laden with self-pity, wait until you have read the story of Gaelynn Lea, the phenomenal musician and public speaker from Duluth Minnesota, who has not allowed her disability to keep her down and away from living her life to the fullest.
Despite being born with a physical disability called Osteogenesis Imperfecta (also known as Brittle Bones Disease), a genetic condition that left her with bent arms, legs and a shortened stature, Gaelynn Lea, through the help of music have 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 possibly be.
Lea now tours America and Europe electrifying every place she visits with her haunting electro-folk music. In 2016, she won the NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Contest. She is a passionate and strong advocate of authentic living and personal growth, thus, she goes around speaking to people and motivating them to reach their own goals. She is also into disability advocacy.
Gaelynn Lea Bio
Lea talks about her family a lot because according to her, they are her greatest influencers but at the same time, she keeps their identities away from the media as much as possible. So even though we know she does have parents and siblings because she often talks about them in her talks and interviews, their names are not known.
We also know she was born in Duluth, Minnesota, in 1984, but the exact date and month are not known. She was born with a genetic condition called Osteogenesis Imperfecta, which hampers growth by causing complications in bones and limbs development. Due to the condition, she has bent arms, legs, and a shortened stature. She had never walked and had to start using an electric wheelchair before age three and by learning to use the electronic wheelchair at such a tender age, many of her doorways and toenails were destroyed in the process.
She attended East High School from where she graduated in 2002. After high school, she attended Macalester College, St. Paul for 3 years before transferring to the University of Minnesota, Duluth in 2008 from where she bagged 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 would take note of that and she encouraged her to pursue music after she had 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 her wheelchair with a tiny cello attached to her foot so it wouldn’t slip and fall when she played instead of on her shoulder.
Her style of music is a mixture of classic, Celtic, and traditional folk. Due to her stature, she plays the violin the way a cellist would and that is so amazing as it creates a very unique sound. With the use of the looping pedals, she layers multiple orchestrated parts from an electric violin while she sings. The pedals have helped her to build and develop several layers of sound.
Early in Lea’s career, she collaborated with Alan Sparhawk. She has also played with Billy McLaughlin and Charlie Parranda. Her first solo album All the Roads that Lead Us Home came in 2015 and the following year, she won the NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Contest after her song “Someday We’ll Linger in the Sun” was selected over 6,000 other submissions.
Asides from her music, Lea is a disability advocate 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 talked about sexuality, the obstacles for 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 for seven years, Paul Tressler, in 2013. Paul does not have a form of disability and has been very supportive of Lea and her career, traveling with her during her musical tours.
The couple lives in her own house in Duluth with their cat, Cecilia, and their dog named Clara.
Here Are Facts You Need To Know About Gaelynn Lea
Before settling for a career in music, Lea wanted to be a career lawyer and disability rights, advocate. While at the university, she was a co-coordinator of a disability rights group called Access For All.
She worked for Hanlon & Associates as an insurance agent and was licensed to sell homes, autos, businesses, and life insurance.
Lea is 3 ft tall and teaches fiddle at Gaelynn Lea Music.