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Music Education Network
For The Visually Impaired

A Coalition of Parents, Educators, and Students

MENVI Headquarters - Southern California Conservatory of Music,
8711 Sunland Blvd, Sun Valley, CA 91352
Phone: (818) 790-5903; E-mail:
Journal - Fall Quarter 2001 Issue No. 12


- Blind Musicians lose a Renowned Transcriber -

Past CTEVH Music Consultant Dies

"She always seemed to have the right answers, and was always willing to take time out to help a beginner" says Richard Taesch, current Music Specialist for California Transcribers and Educators of the Visually Handicapped. Ethel Schuman passed away last July after a long struggle with Parkinson's disease. Mrs. Schuman was certified in literary braille transcription by the Library of Congress in 1957, and in music in 1967. She served as president of CTEVH from 1965 to 1967, and was once commended by the Library of Congress for producing more music braille than any other transcriber. Among her accomplishments, she founded the Braille Services Guild in Westwood, California, providing braille textbooks and music for blind musicians everywhere. Whether professional or strictly volunteer, few understand the complexity of training, experience, and the motivation required of a competent braillist. Ethel Schuman was truly a model for all of us!

Technology and Braille Music

The idea of collaboration between technology and traditional academia is not new, but let us think about this. One student in the SCCM Braille Music Division is being prepared to "test-out" of two piano classes at USC. One of the requirements of the exam will be to play (from the braille music score) any two of four parts in a choral score. He is required to have the ability to teach students during part rehearsals. Once the parts were read and learned from the hard copy braille, he recorded them in Cakewalk using skills learned in our Computer Music Arts program. In this way, he is able to verify his reading accuracy, but more importantly, he can read different parts with the playback. Consider the possibilities here for teaching and learning to read more quickly and accurately. Applications to jazz music are also very useful. Complex rhythmic lines can be read and entered from the braille leadsheet. Playback will verify meter, and the pianist can then add the chord accompaniment for practice while being able to hear the melody before learning it. Consequently, we have old fashioned reading, technology, and the controversial "ears" issue all working together. Give us your experiences in any similar situations we'll print them in an upcoming MENVI issue.

Ideas for Braille Music Educators

The ability to write down a melodic line that is played is a typical requirement for the serious music student, and in particular, for someone in a college music program. The writing of music lines in braille music notation is also required of the blind student. Educators need not know the braille code in order to administrate the application of this most important area of musicianship. In one wonderful situation involving a classic guitar major at an eastern university, a professor called the student's transcriber and asked the question, "... I know she is writing down the example as it is played for her, but I can't read braille. How do I know that she has done it correctly?" The transcribers answer: "Well, Dr. _____, you simply ask her to read it back to you." Professor: "Oh my, I never thought of that!" Never having worked with a blind student, it is quite understandable why the teacher did not think of such an obvious solution. Following are some suggested steps to take for helping students achieve the skill of taking melodic dictation:

Level I

  1. The teacher plays a one-measure melody twice--using only eighth and quarter note- values.
  2. The student sings back the exercise first in scale step numbers or letters, then writes it on the brailler. Write the exercise at first ONLY in eighth notes, ignoring note values.
  3. The teacher now plays the measure and says the value of each note or rest as it is played or counted.
  4. The student writes the measure adding the correct dots 3 or 6 for notes values.
  5. The measure is played again, counted, then written and checked.

Level II

  1. The teacher should now play at least two measures at a time.
  2. The student listens and sings back the exercise.
  3. Student writes the music in eighth notes only.
  4. The teacher plays the exercise again.
  5. The student writes the values only using the note C in its proper value. No pitch is written at this time.
  6. The teacher plays the two measures again.
  7. The student now combines the music with values and pitches.
  8. Experiment now with writing melodies note- for-note as they are played--very slowly.

New Curriculum For Braille Music Instruction and Reading

Dancing Dots Technology has announced its release of the new curriculum by Richard Taesch, "An Introduction to Music For The Blind Student," Part I. This course is not typically a translation process from print music, but a course in music itself using braille music as the medium of notation. It can be administered by a person who has no knowledge of braille. Some knowledge of music is helpful, but any parent or tutor can assist a blind student in the lessons. Reading can be applied to all instruments, and a small keyboard is all that is necessary as a teaching tool. No previous knowledge of the piano is necessary. Part II will be forthcoming. Contact Dancing Dots at (610) 783-6692, or

SCCM Braille Music Division also announces the availability of "Introduction To The Piano For The Blind Student" (Graded Studies) Books 1 and 2, and Repertoire Book 1 by Richard Taesch, a companion to the Curriculum. Call Opus Technologies for ordering information: (858) 538-6381 - or Dancing Dots.

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