Listen to the music: UM student turns pandemic challenges into creativity

Posted at 5:33 PM, Feb 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-19 00:15:21-05

MISSOULA — Think back to the last time you saw a live performance of any sort -- it’s probably been quite a while.

For one local musician -- who doubles as a student at the University of Montana -- it’s been particularly challenging.

Crossing through campus with her instrument in tow is 19-year-old Hannah Clemenson from Sulphur Springs, Montana. Other students zip past on bicycles, they hustle to their next destination.

Hannah is also in a rush -- and her visual impairment -- which she’s had since birth, does its best to slow her down.

But before long, she makes it to the music building, a sacred retreat amid the COVID chaos.

“Without something to get you through this pandemic, without something to make you happy, you're just wasting time, right?” Hannah said.

In a mostly virtual school year, the challenges run rampant for someone with a visual impairment. “I've just been trying to have as normal an experience as I can,” Hannah said.

But Hannah’s tough. She can handle an unconventional school year -- it’s the impact on live music that’s really got her down.

“So, there's like a stereotype that most blind people are musicians. There's a lot of blind musicians because, I mean, it's really one thing that we can really excel at because we hear so much different,” Hannah said.

“We don't hear better, but we just hear differently than most people, and for blind people, music is really like the only thing that is the same for them and for everyone else, because everyone hears music, and there's no visual component,” Hannah added.

But stereotypes and commonalities aside, Hannah credits her parents for her love of music. A father who strummed a guitar in the evenings and a mother who always had the radio playing in the car.

“And so, I just kind of grew up singing, all the time, and then when I was really young, like five or six, I started singing the National Anthem at basketball games and stuff, and it just kind of grew from there,” Hannah said.

It wasn’t until she picked up a guitar two years ago that she really considered herself a musician -- and a good one at that.

You can find her performances on her Facebook and Instagram pages, just search Hannah Clemenson.

She plays for her friends, plucks away in her dorm room -- but an open mic at a lively bar is what she craves.

“If I do find a place to play, I’ll take advantage of it because I miss it so much and I miss entertaining people and meeting people,” Hannah told MTN News.

While she waits out the pandemic, Hannah is taking advantage of the time, honing her craft, and has even started writing her own songs.

Featured in the attached video, is Hannah's original song, "AM Radio."

While many feel that the world has come to a screeching halt, Hannah's is just taking off. She hopes others will take advantage of this time too.

“Enjoy this time you have to find creative outlets and don't let this year be wasted,” Hannah concluded.

Hannah is studying political science and communication at the University of Montana, but if an opportunity in show biz comes knocking, she says she won’t be able to turn it down.

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