BLUE O’CONNELL - Certified Music Practitioner - Hearing Disorders

All of the best memories of my life seem to have a song attached to them. Because music has meant so much to me, I’ve made it my mission to bring music to others, to provide them with a soundtrack for their lives’ most significant moments. For over 30 years, I have had the privilege to play music for all kinds of people in coffeehouses, benefits and ceremonies all over the country.

I am employed as a Certified Music Practitioner and play therapeutic music for patients at the University of Virginia Hospital. I also work with VSA Arts in Charlottesville, which is an organization dedicated to promote experiences in the arts for individuals with disabilities. I am the Director of Community Outreach at Music for HOPE, a non-profit organization that provides instruments for disadvantaged kids. This  year I was involved in the Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Program this year, studying Galax-style dulcimer with Phyllis Gaskins.

By Jane Norris

Published: March 04, 2011

First, she had to get past the cartoon voices. People who spoke to Blue O’Connell initially sounded as if either they’d been breathing helium out of balloons, or were doing their best Darth Vader impressions.

Then, as O’Connell sat in the break room at work during lunch, she had to learn how to sort through a jumble of competing noises — the whirring of the refrigerator, the clink of dishes being washed in the sink, the hum of the air conditioner, friendly banter, laughter. Only then could she decide which sounds to tune out and which ones deserved her focus.

Then, the singer-songwriter and former DJ who serves as a certified music practitioner at the University of Virginia Hospital had to learn to hear music all over again and find the answer to the question she’d been dreading:
Now that she’d had her cochlear implant, would the musical life she cherished come back?

“No one could tell me whether the implant would interfere with music perception,” O’Connell said. “It’s not known for being good for music; it’s really a speech processor.
“Music sounded really strange at first, but it got better over time. Over time, gradually, it came back to me. I had to train my brain to listen to those frequencies.