Batons not barriers: The disabled musicians coming to the proms

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s Resound Ensemble explain why it’s not about the disability, it’s about the quality of music-making

James Rose is used to being underestimated. “Until the age of 11, I was in a special school, and then I asked my parents to move me into a mainstream one because I was getting bored,” he tells me. “I was being given work aimed at five- and six-year-olds.”

Rose’s speech is impaired by his condition, cerebral palsy; he is in a wheelchair; people who meet him assume he will be intellectually slow, but he is the exact opposite: bright, demanding, determined to achieve his dream. That dream is conducting. “From a very young age I was into music. I had a 15-year fantasy about conducting, but never took it seriously until 2012.” Now, incredibly, the fantasy is about to become reality. On 27 August, he will conduct at the Proms, at the head of his own six-piece ensemble made up of other musicians with disabilities. At 32, after decades of being patronised or ignored, Rose will command the biggest classical music stage of all.

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