As a child, Jeff Faragher was severely burned and told he would likely never hold a pencil.
Despite his physical challenges, he has established a successful career as a cellist and music teacher, recently playing as a soloist for the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra.
Faragher was only six months old when he was doused with boiling water by his birth parents.
Doctors at the University of Alberta Hospital treated the burns all over his small body as best they could, but told his adoptive parents he would likely be unable to do simple tasks such as writing.
Faragher says, “It’s one of those bittersweet things, and certainly has played a lot into who I am and the drive I have to succeed.”
Despite the major physical challenges he has faced, Faragher stresses that his childhood was wonderful.
“Of course it was, in a very big way, the best thing that ever happened to me because I was then adopted by two amazing people and their family,” says Faragher. “And I had a wonderful childhood because of it.”
Finding music at a young age
At the age of three, Faragher’s mother first introduced him to music through a program called Kodi, which was created by a European composer who started a method for young children to learn music.
It wasn’t until the age of six that he discovered his love for the cello.
“I was just immersed in music, having fun, which was a really neat way to get started,” says Faragher.
Throughout his life, Faragher has never viewed himself as having a disability.
Teachers in his life have always encouraged him and shown him that he is no different from anyone else.
They even challenged him to use more complicated finger placements — showing just how advanced Faragher’s skill is despite his challenges.
“It’s just a way of life that I’ve lived with,” he explains.
Faragher says that music been a source of comfort for him since a young age, especially in times where he has doubted his ability to do things the way other people — who are not “limited physically” — can.
“[Any time I feel like that], I always just come back to my craft,” he says. “My cello.”
Taking advantage of hardship
Faragher has not let his physical disabilities affect his music. Instead he channels his struggles as his approach to teaching his students at the Chinook School of Music.
“You look at the cards you’ve been dealt, and realize that it’s a strength. These are things that help you overcome, but help you learn how to overcome,” says Faragher. “I think that’s the most important thing for me. And I take that into my teaching.”
During his time as a music teacher, Faragher has touched the lives of many students, both young and old.
Student Zack Dubrawski says he has learned so much from Faragher beyond how to play a cello.
Adult student Lisa Evren, who took up the cello 18 months ago, notes Faragher’s teaching. She says that Faragher has a vast “knowledge of music and an array of playing styles.”
In addition to his teaching and regular gigs around the province, Faragher took the stage as a soloist for the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra in February, 2019.
“That was a really fun to play a show that I actually knew really well,” he says.
Faragher has conducted the show once before, saying, “There’s such a great band of kind of world music, a lot of Flamenco infused, so it was really driving and exciting music and really well orchestrated parts.”
For Faragher, it is all about the music and the joy each piece of music gives him during his performances.
“I just love that fullness,” explains Faragher. ”But I’m a musical pig, I love playing Celtic. I would say I probably derive the most simplistic joy from playing Celtic fiddle tunes and accompanying people and just kind of jamming.”
Plans for the future
As for the future endeavors of Faragher’s musical career, Faragher says, “I’ve gotten to play with some amazing groups here. I’m going to be involved and I’m in a world debut of a new opera coming up in Banff in May.”
Faragher describes the plans for the future production.
Faragher will spend a entire week crafting the opera from the ground up, featuring it in multiple world premiers in Calgary.
“I would never have expected to have those kinds of opportunities in a place like Calgary. So it’s pretty great.”
Through his teaching and performances, Faragher hopes to not only pursue his love of music as a cellist while continuing to overcome his physical challenges, but teach others to do the same.
Editor: Holly Maller | email@example.com