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Violinist Glen Donnelly has made headlines by leaping from a plane 15,000 feet in the air with his instrument – in the nude. In a campaign to raise money for three men’s body image projects, the Australian violinist played Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending during the jump near Coffs Harbour, NSW, which took place on his 30th birthday. The feat has garnered Donnelly’s cause plenty of attention, with news organisations around the world – including the BBC and the Washington Post – picking up the story.
Violinist Glen Donnelly skydiving nude.
For Donnelly, whose career as a violinist was put on hold in 2013 due to a severe body dysmorphic disorder, the jump is another step in his own journey towards healing and a chance to remove some of the stigma surrounding body image. “I want to tell my story and inspire others to come out and also tell their own,” he told Limelight in June as he was preparing for the jump. “But I want to raise funds to actually do something about this epidemic because each year for young boys and men it’s getting worse and worse in our culture.”
So what is it like to skydive with no clothes? “Doing this naked jump felt like total freedom,” Donnelly told Limelight. “It was, um, cold! I was shivering going up and felt almost numb (in more than a few extremities), but once I jumped out... I felt EVERYTHING! Everywhere. And in all the senses too. Most of all I felt gratitude.”
Amidst all the adrenaline, Donnelly still remembered to play his violin. “The first instinct was the joy of my birthday and being thankful to Coffs Skydivers at Coffs Harbour was my first thought. The second thought was, ‘Shit, I have to play this thing’ so I did. Once the parachute was pulled and we were gliding like a bird ready for me to play The Lark Ascending, there was a lot of feeling of freedom.”
“It was extraordinarily difficult to play violin with Category 4-grade hurricane wind speeds blown at it for one-minute straight,” he said. “And the way the bow was attached to my wrist also had to be a ‘grab’ like a fist instead of a ‘hold’ like you're normally supposed to... but, I played Happy Birthday (managed to fit it in twice) and I DID hear it as I was doing it!”
So what will Donnelly do now that his feet are back on the ground? “I want to focus on the reason I launched the Nude Violin Skydive,” he said. “To raise $15,000 for three body image projects to change men and boys' lives at gofundme.com/BirthdayDive.”
Glenn Donnelly playing the violin while skydiving nude.
While the Guinness World Records rejected the violinist’s proposal for a record for Highest Musical Performance in Free Fall – on the grounds that it was too specialised – Donnelly’s campaign has already raised over $4,500 and donations are still coming in. “But for me personally, I'm right now undergoing a very real, very authentic healing journey,” he said. “And playing the violin nude is one of the powerful therapies I've discovered along the way. I've got a lot to say in the future about all this and all I can say is stay tuned to my Facebook – if they won't unfairly ban my account, that is!”
“I feel proud of myself,” he said. “I proved that I can follow through with something extraordinary and scary and difficult that I said I would do and the media response showed the respect of that discipline once I did something like this. I'm ready to climb higher challenges and chase higher purposes over the course of my life and skydiving for body image is only just the beginning.”