Our new "Network" has definitely grown beyond our earliest expectations. We now receive letters and requests for applications (many of them in braille) on a weekly basis. We have been quite successful in connecting people with similar needs, and to often hard-to-find resources. For example, we just received a letter in braille from a young college student in India. This is an instrumental major interested in the study of classic guitar who had exhausted all available resources for braille music. The student's teacher read about MENVI in the A.F.B. publication D.O.T.S. An application and a braille newsletter is on its way to India. Special thanks to American Foundation for The Blind for telling the world about the network. We have received many requests from the D.O.T.S. article. This is the kind of cooperative effort that brings blind music people together.
It is with great sadness that we must report the passing of our SCCM Board Member and fund raiser, Mrs. Kitty Johnson. Kitty was a Board Member of SCCM for many years, and an important source of fund raising for the school. Her late husband, Hal Johnson, was the founder of the Conservatory's composition department as well as its chairman. From the initial efforts of the Braille Music Division at SCCM, Kitty was responsible for obtaining the grants that purchased our first equipment, a Thermoform machine, thereby setting the wheels in motion for the program as we see it today. Thanks to Kitty, we soon were equipped with state-of-the-art computer braille output capabilities. Through the efforts of Kitty Johnson and others like her, SCCM is now one of the few schools of music in the world with on-site braille music curriculum, training, and transcription.
We are proud to announce the news about the new MENVI Advisors. There are five members of the committee. Two articles written by them will appear in this issue. See the enclosed Membership Roster for their names and titles.
I am a blind trumpet player. My family and I have found a way to transcribe music braille in a quick and efficient manner. My former piano teacher learned the music braille code while I was taking piano. When she first started transcribing music, she used a braille writer. When I started playing the trumpet, she continued to transcribe music braille for me. The school district provided her with a copy of ED-IT PC (A professional transcriber's program by Computer Application Specialties).
Initially, she would save the music on a disk and the hard copy would have to be printed at the school district office. It would often take three or four days before I had a copy in my hands. This year I discovered a faster and more efficient method. Here are the steps that we currently use to get music braille:
I really like the Braille Lite because it is portable and easy to take to band class. I have a hard copy of the music immediately and I also have the advantage of being able to make changes or add comments to the music during rehearsal. This Summer I attended a band camp at the University of Oregon. We were unable to get a print copy of the music until three days before camp started. My braillist was out of town and we panicked. Working together with Richard Taesch, the university faxed him the music and he sent it back to us via e-mail transcribed in ED-IT-PC. After copying it onto a disk and loading it into my Braille Lite, I was instantly able to have access to the music that all of the other campers had. Thanks to amazing technology and wonderful transcribers, I am learning to read music and enjoying the process!
Heather Bandy is the first blind student at SCCM to take the Royal Conservatory of Music practical examination. "First Class Honors With Distinction."!!
Is it possible for a blind teacher to instruct a sighted student? Before my own personal experience in teaching, I myself was not certain of the answer to this question. However, after teaching several private classic guitar students in my home, I began to develop a system of teaching. Yes it is possible for a blind teacher to successfully instruct sighted students. As a blind teacher, I used a variety of teaching methods and tools. One tool that worked remarkably well was a guitar instructional book that was in both print music for my sighted student and in braille music for me. As my student played, I read the music notation along with her. Often, I would follow along and correct any mistakes or clarify any confusion. In addition to reading music, I also focused on teaching guitar technique. This proved to be a little more challenging for both myself and my students. I used a number of different ways to teach technique. First, I used the sense of touch. I would physically position my students' hands, and then touch their hands occasionally as they played. I could tell if the student was playing in the style that I was teaching if the tone produced had a certain quality. Also, I would have my student place her hand on top of my hand as I played. In this way, the student could feel for herself the placement of my arm, wrist, and finger joints. Next, I used demonstration. I would have my sighted student look very carefully at my hands and fingers as I played so they could see how their hands should appear during practice. I suggested that students practice in front of a mirror watching their hands rather than looking down at their fingers. Finally, I would coach my students by giving them as many examples and descriptions as I could of the specific sensation needed to create beautiful tone and maintain a relaxed hand position. For example, in order for the student to understand finger movement when striking a single string, I would say, "pretend that your fingers are walking slowly, deliberately, step-by-step with no hesitation." If the student needed more coaching, I would have her put down the guitar and walk across the room the way I wanted the fingers to "walk across the strings." The students found this exercise silly, but consistently produced improved technique after the exercise. As you are reading this article, you may be thinking: "That is not different than the way my teacher teaches, or not much different than the way I teach." That is precisely the point! With the senses of sight, touch, and hearing to instruct in the disciplines of classical guitar, it is possible for a blind teacher to have sighted students.
Juliana Raiche is a student at Virginia Commonwealth University. She developed braille music skills at SCCM, soon becoming able to work easily with sighted music majors. Juliana is "Student Advisory Chairperson" for MENVI.
One of the most commonly asked questions coming from sighted teachers and conductors is how is it possible to conduct or have a blind musician in an ensemble?" The following article can be applied beautifully to ALL ensemble situations, including jazz and commercial music. Band Directors are invited to contribute comments from their perspective.
So you want to be a part of a dynamic, unified sound that makes sound larger and more wonderful than anything you could make alone. You want to speak as if you were a single string vibrating in an ensemble of violins--you want to be a part of that human instrument called the "chorus." I suggest a 3-pronged approach to getting in and staying in the group: Learn to love, to listen, to memorize, and to read braille music. While you're waiting for that bulky box of braille magic to arrive from your transcriber, there's lots you can do. Listen to everyone around you. Take your tempos from their breath cues. Learn entrances and cut-offs from your neighbors' voices. Memorize the bare bones of the score from the predictable repetition of passages in rehearsals. Bring a cassette recorder to practice sessions so you can jog that memory muscle of yours during the week. In the early stages of this learning process, you will want to make your entrances a millisecond after the other voices. You will want to cut off just a hair before they do. This is just while you're learning. The goal of the choral conductor is to create a blended, oneness of sound, so don't "stick out." When the braille music arrives, you can attack, hold, and cut off as the music suggests, fully enjoying the singing of each measure. And by the way, while you're skimming the score to check how well your memory has served you, look for patterns. So many choral works have an "A", "B", then another "A" section or some other consistency in structure. Help yourself by reading for that framework FIRST! This will simplify any learning left yet to do.
Maureen Carole Young is a blind professional Concert and Opera Singer. She made her debut in 1979 as "Mimi" in La Boheme with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, which was heavily reviewed. This was the first time that a blind person was accepted as lead in a major opera company. She was a featured prima donna in the New York Grand Opera, and has also sung with Beverly Sills. In 1971, Miss Young was a professional chorister with The Grand Parks Symphony Chorus in Chicago. She is currently working as soprano Soloist in "Carmina Burana" with the San Francisco Choral Society. Her braille music transcriber for over thirty years has been Bettye Krolick, internationally recognized as Braille Music Specialist, and Music Technical Committee Chair for "Braille Authority of North America" (BANA). Miss Young currently resides and teaches in San Francisco.
"Braille Music Orientation for Teachers" is a new course available at SCCM in the Fall Quarter for teachers of blind students. Teachers need not read braille to take advantage of this "how-to-teach-it" pedagogy. Teachers must be concerned with how their blind students see music, understand formats, and how to work in cooperation with the braille specialist. For information, phone or E-mail SCCM.
California Transcribers and Educators For The Visually Handicapped will hold its State Conference on March 26-28, 1998 at the LAX Hilton. Richard Taesch and Grant Horrocks of the SCCM Braille Music Division will conduct two workshops: "Teaching Music Braille: The Structuring of Early Curriculum for Blind Music Students" and "Music In Education: Academic Success Through the Study of Music." Richard Taesch is Music Specialist for CTEVH. Music performances will highlight the formal banquet on March 27 and other special events.
Computer Application Specialties is the creator of ED-IT-PC. Visit their Web site at: http://www.c-a-s.com. The latest update of ED-IT can be downloaded from the Internet. A price increase is scheduled for October 1st. The new prices are listed on the Web page. Dancing Dots Technology also has a Web site: http://www.netaxs.com/~ddots. Dancing Dots is the creator of the new "Goodfeel" braille music translation program. SCCM is currently one of the "Goodfeel" beta- testers. Bill McCann, President of the company, is scheduled to be on the panel of the workshop, "Teaching Music Braille: ..." at the 1998 CTEVH Conference. See how technology can assist non-braillists in music teaching. Opus Technologies has developed The CD-ROM version of the new "International Manual of Braille Music Notation." You may reach Opus Technologies at: (619) 538-9401. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. This interactive program is highly recommended for teachers and parents with little or no braille knowledge.
This concludes newsletter issue 2. As of today's date, dancing dots web site can be found by Clicking on this link. The old site is not valid.
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