Local singer and The Voice contestant Tim McCallum announced as 2021 Gold Coast Disability Expo ambassador
With the My Future, My Choice Gold Coast Disability Expo returning in June with over 100 product and service providers, organisers are excited to announce that opera singer Tim McCallum will be 2021 expo ambassador.
Tim’s personal experience is one of determination, innovation, and inspiration.
At the tender age of six, he dreamed of treading the boards, singing and performing on Broadway and Westend. Taking singing lessons and theatre classes throughout his school years, by the time he graduated at the age of 18, his voice and skill was recognised by a prestigious performing arts academy. He appeared to be well on the way to fulfilling his dreams.
However, his life took a dramatic detour while swimming at the beach with a couple of friends. Diving headfirst into a sandbar, Tim damaged his spinal cord and was instantly paralysed from the chest (C4) down.
“There I was, an 18-year-old motivated and enthusiastic kind of guy, knowing who I wanted to be and where I wanted to go. I had felt invincible. But this accident was going to be the greatest challenge I ever faced in life.”
After finding out that he would never walk again, Tim asked whether he would ever be able to sing again. “You will probably never be able to sing again like you used to,” he recalled them saying. However, instead of the doctor’s answer leaving him devastated, Tim saw a sliver of hope.
From that moment on, he resolved to never give up on regaining his powerful operatic tenor. He may have to sit from now on, but he would always sing.
“And sure, it may not ever be what it was, but what if I worked really hard?” he asked himself. “Would I still be able to reach my dreams?”
Throughout his physical rehabilitation, Tim also worked hard on voice lessons. And in a moment that was came about more by accident and sheer frustration at not reaching a note rather than forethought and planning, he discovered a new respiratory technique. Utilising his bicep and shoulder muscles, he found that he could mechanically force his diaphragm to give him projection and sustain the notes that he wanted. Refining the technique, mere months post-rehabilitation he was cast as King Herod in Jesus Christ Superstar. With modified sets and props, he could once more use his natural abilities.
However, with success over the years, came moments of great disappointment. Old theatres were often simply not accessible for performers in wheelchairs. Each night for three months, he was carried up three flights of stairs by “sweaty techies,” as he liked to call them, just so that he could perform Jesus Christ Superstar.
“I felt invincible again [when performing]—until I wheeled offstage and was met by [what felt like] another crowd-surfing-like journey down the hundred steps to the greenroom.” A precarious and potentially humiliating nightly odyssey.
Tired of excuses about old buildings and small budgets (“Do you mind if we carry you?”) he began educating event organisers and venue managers. Swapping his theatre costume for a hard hat, Tim has even taken on the role of consultant at times, convincing theatre managers to install adaptive technology like motorised wheelchair lifts for stairways.
He also uses his voice to challenge outdated ideas so that he can forge new pathways for people with disabilities when he encounters discrimination from producers who may, at first, be unwilling to employ wheelchair-confined performers. “So, I have to go in there with the frame of mind of: Right. I feel I have the talent to be able to play this role. And this is how I would like to play it. This is what I can do. Hopefully, you can see that, too. You know… maybe go for something that’s on wheels and you might tempt the audience’s eyes a little differently.”
Now, 25 years of diverse performance experience later, including a 2015 stint on The Voice, Tim McCallum is one of Australia’s most exciting and beloved local performers. He is fast becoming an international phenomenon, also. It’s not just his incredible operatic voice, but his resilience and extraordinary spirit that have touched the hearts of the people in the Arts community and those on the audience watching him defy the odds.
Tim will be on centre stage at the opening ceremony, 11am, and will also be talking about his experiences and his love of music.
Entry to the disability expo is FREE of charge for attendees and finding your way around is even easier in 2021 thanks to the new BindiMaps app for vision impaired, blind and sighted attendees. Get BindiMaps on your smartphone now:
- Apple App Store: https://apps.apple.com/au/app/bindimaps/id1435118854
- Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.bindimaps
Register online for fast access on the day and follow the My Future, My Choice Gold Coast Disability Expo Facebook page for regular updates.
- FREE ENTRY for all attendees & a free show bag
- 100+ exhibitors covering disability services, products, support, leisure and housing
- Connect with Government agencies and advocacy/consumer rights groups
- Both the NDIS and NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission will be at the expo and will present on stage
- Representatives from the Disability Royal Commission Advocacy group will be exhibiting
- Presentations and Q&A sessions from a range of local disability expert speakers and organisations
- Kids’ entertainment Saturday
- Live all-ability performances both days
- Food trucks and cafe seating area
- Hot Tomato broadcasting live on Friday
- Your chance to win a $500 gift Gard
ABOUT SOCIAL IMPACT INSTITUTE
Social Impact Institute’s series of expos across Australia bring together seniors and people with a disability with product and service providers, government agencies and advocacy groups. We are proud that our expos have enabled thousands of Australian people living with disability to gain greater control over their lives and the services and products they need to live their lives to their fullest.