Claire - Sheet Music

When Claire switched her university studies from maths to music, it was an impulsive and last-minute choice that quickly proved to be the right one. For more than 30 years, Claire could be heard on recordings, broadcasts and accompaniments with Australian orchestras and symphonies. Her ability to sight-read was “like a superpower” and helped establish her as a respected freelance pianist, alongside her decades of work with Melbourne University.

Claire was riding her bike one morning in 2013, heading to a recital along the off-road bike path from her place in Brunswick West. The light turned green and Claire pedalled through as a driver, who was distracted by their phone, ran a red light and struck her.

The incident left Claire with an acquired brain injury and two years in rehab, learning to walk and talk again. The right side of her body was permanently affected. In an instant, Claire’s career as a professional pianist was over and her life changed forever.

Despite the enormity of the incident, Claire believes she was lucky. The car hit her on Royal Parade, not far from the Royal Melbourne Hospital , and some of the first people on the scene were medical staff heading to work. Her 30-odd years as a pianist also became a kind of skeleton key in her recovery process. Rehabilitation for brain injuries requires daily work that often results in imperceptible, incremental improvements – the kind that might be unnoticeable or prove frustrating to someone who hasn't trained in repetition.

Watching concerts can trigger feelings of grief for Claire, but she's found ways to remain connected to the music that's important to her, such as playing from the Brahms violin sonatas. Still annotated with her notes and reminders, the sheet music is like a map to follow. It might sound a bit different and take a bit longer than she'd planned, but Claire is determined to reach the end.