A music composition student at UC Santa Barbara, a foundation director connecting children with disabilities to music, and a music writer who is planning a fourth annual showcase at the Granada Theatre, Grace Fisher is undoubtedly a busy 23-year-old. Paralyzed from the neck down at 17 by acute flaccid myelitis — a polio-like spinal cord disease — Fisher has inspired others living with disabilities to find their artistic muse. Fisher’s life and goals, along with those of three other people with spinal-cord injuries, are featured in a film titled I Am My Power that screens this Thursday, October 21 at Goleta’s West Wind Drive-in Theater.
Produced by the Cottage Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation, I Am My Power follows the stories of four people living with disabilities, including Fisher, who not only continue to pursue their passions in spite of the challenges they face, but inspire others to do the same. The other three featured in the film are Danny J. Gomez, David Francisco, and Wesley Hamilton, each of whom have fostered careers ranging from modeling, to singing, to nonprofit work following spinal cord injuries.
“We’ve all become disabled in a different way, and we all have different ways of finding our power. There are a lot of things I can’t do, but art is still something I can create,” said Fisher.
Music has been a constant medium of expression for the young composer. Fisher played several instruments growing up and was on her way to the prestigious Berklee College of Music by age 17. Following her diagnosis, Fisher spent months in rehabilitation, finding music therapy and adaptive art as avenues for healing. Since then, Fisher established the Grace Fisher Foundation to facilitate accessible spaces for disabled youth to express themselves artistically. She continues to write music for school and for foundation fundraisers.
“Music has always been a part of my life. It’s who I’ve always been,” said Fisher. “It’s a part of my life in a different way than what I was expecting. Having it be a part of my life [today] connects me to that person that I was and that I am.”
Unleashing one’s own inner-power is a central theme of the film. When it comes to power, Fisher explains that it’s more than just her own that allows her to accomplish so much: “My power is constantly evolving and changing. It’s not just me that is my power; it’s my community and family and friends that give me my power.”
And, in turn, Fisher lives her life returning the power she has found to those around her. Though Fisher doesn’t see herself as an “inspirational figure” per se, it’s evident that Fisher constantly takes steps to empower others, whether invigorating passion for the arts through her foundation, or retelling her story in I Am My Power to offer insights for the wider community.
“Anyone watching this film will be able to see that your life may take a different direction than you were expecting — that maybe different isn’t worse,” said Fisher. “You just might have to change your expectations of what you think is possible.”